HELP: I’m anxious about dad being on his own, he is refusing to move to a retirement home.
As children, we worry about the well-being and safety of our parents. We worry about falls, unhealthy diets, financial scams, and so much more. We may start to think of our parents as children as they start to lose their independence. However, we must remember that they are our parents, adults with very different emotional needs and consideration.
As explained by Atul Gawande, in Being Mortal, modern retirement residences with large common room areas and amenities are designed to appeal to the adult children. However, what is most important to future residents is their independence.
From the moment we are born we strive to be self-reliant. It starts with holding our bottle, tying our laces, driving a car and so forth. Most of us, if we are fortunate to live long enough, will slowly start to lose some of our hard-won independence.
We won’t give it up easily! Each loss will be accompanied by grief manifesting through different emotions and behaviours. We start to feel the tinge of what’s to come when we realize that we need to leave a dinner early to avoid driving when it’s dark. In addition to the loss of independence, with age, we grieve the loss of employment, coworkers, family members and dear friends.
Understandably, our parents are looking to maintain as much control as possible over their lives. As their sphere of influence decreases the more “obstinate” they may become with controlling the smallest things (e.g., food selection, bedtime, clothes, shower schedule). They want to stay home surrounded by their things and feel self-reliant as long as possible.
While adult children are focused on the safety of their parents and the anxiety they feel with their parents on their own. Our parents are focused on their quality of life. Independence is perhaps the most important part of this. So what to do?
First, be empathetic. Our parents are not children. Children have new adventures and time ahead of them. Facing the inevitable decline and constant loss can be very difficult work. Many may become depressed, resentful, sad, bitter, or argumentative. An end-of-life doula can offer support to the aging (e.g., reviewing their lives, completing relationships). If you can’t be empathetic because you’re tired of taking care of everything? A coach with a specialty in caregiving burnout can offer help. Ask yourself, if your desire to move your parent is more about enhancing their quality of life or reducing your anxiety? You can also reach out to a third party to make an assessment from your local home care organization.