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Transition Issues for the Elderly and Their Family

By Jessica Thomas October 25, 2020 Aging

Dealing with the transitions that happen between aging individuals and their families can be a bit challenging. There’s so much that changes as we age, and what we expect and what is, is often different. For adult children with parents transitioning into the stage of older adulthood, AKA retirement, there are certain issues that may arise that you’ll want to be prepared for. It is important to be aware of, acknowledge, and embrace the problems that come up to make these transitions as easy as possible. 

Here, we’ll address some of the common changes you can expect and also add a few suggestions on how to handle them. By being prepared, you and your older family member can continue to carry on fulfilling lives while working together to make the “retirement years” as happy as can be. 

Family Dynamics 

You’ve grown up and gotten older, but your parents have always been the guides to turn to for advice. They’ve nurtured you and helped you mature into the adult you are today. Therefore, it can be a shock to see your parents now needing your help and nurturing. This change can bring on a sense of loss for both parties, especially if you’ve become your parent’s caregiver. While you may feel anxious about having a more vulnerable parent, your parent may feel like they’re losing their independence. 

This shift in “power” can make the elderly irritated and stubborn, but it is crucial that you communicate effectively when this occurs. Be reassuring, allow them to participate in decisions about their care, and let them know that there is no change to the dynamic of your relationship. Communication can be key to override this transition issue.

Living Situation

Many older adults want to maintain their independence and live in their respective homes, separate from their children. This can be possible and empowering in some cases, but sometimes it’s just not feasible. Some elderly parents won’t be able to maintain their independence and will have to move in with one of their children or into an assisted living facility. One study found that safety was a primary reason for relocating, especially if parents exhibited a functional decline. 

Many parents don’t like to move in with their children because they may see this as an inconvenience or a shift in family dynamics. However, it’s essential to take the necessary steps to decide where the best place is. Talk among relatives, ask your parents healthcare team, and, most importantly, talk to your elderly parents to see what the best course of action is. Check with Social Services and your local Agency on Aging to see what resources they have. Often, they can assist with transportation, housekeeping, meal preparation, and even medication management. Each of the aforementioned may allow an aging parent to remain in their home until their needs increase. 

If you all do decide that it’s time to move into a long-term care facility, be sure to visit communities with your elderly relatives and see what they think. If your parents can participate in decision-making, then always consult with them before making the final decision. Working together makes everything easier. 

Safety/Medical Issues

Many aging adults have medical conditions they need to manage or take medication for. In fact, at least 80% of older adults have one chronic disease, and 77% have at least two. Therefore, as the elderly transition into a new stage of their lives where they require more attention, it is important to keep their medical needs in mind. It’s also imperative that you assess and address any safety concerns if they are still living alone. 

When it comes to driving and certain dangers of living alone, like falls, communication is vital.  Be sure to talk with your elderly relatives and the other relatives that are helping them transition. When it comes to medical issues, elderly family members may need you and your other relatives to speak up and raise their medical concerns for them. It is also important to be prepared for a serious medical emergency, one that may take a while to recover from, or may require extra care on your part!

Quality of Life

This one is extremely important. There are so many factors to consider when your elderly relatives are transitioning that many forget one of the most important things: their quality of life. This new stage of aging that they’re entering may require more attention and some caregiving; however, that’s not all. It is critical to consider that beyond just their basic needs, it is crucial to find out what matters most to them. 

An older loved one’s quality of life is something you’ll want to maintain by instilling social connectedness, dignity, and purpose. This stage can be overwhelming at times, but many of our older loved ones are excited to relax and slow down the pace of life during this new transition. Any concerns or issues that arise during this new life transition should be taken care of immediately to make sure your relatives are still living the dignified and happy life they deserve.

The Aftermath of the Transition

It can be an overwhelming feat for many adult children to ease into a new transition of life with their elderly parents. However, it is essential to note that it can be a gratifying act to provide for your elderly parents. Also, it can be equally enriching for other relatives, such as your children. Taking care of one’s elderly grandparents can make it seem like you are helping provide and nurture for them like they once did to you. This is an experience that can help bring an even closer bond to you and your parents. Whether they are living with you or you’ve become a semi-permanent caregiver in their household, caring for your parents doesn’t have to be something that strains your relationship.

Overcoming Transition Issues

With the right communication and preparedness, many adult children can help their elderly parents transition into a new life stage that allows them to sit back and look back on all they’ve accomplished. The rewarding experience of being able to help and care for your elderly parents is very special, though it does have it’s fair share of transition issues that may arise. However, these issues are not something that should completely put a halt to your or your parents’ quality of life. Work together and continue to uphold the same respect for each other, and you will be a great aid in making sure your elderly relatives’ quality of life continues to be at its best!

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The Author

Jessica Thomas is a Public Health Professional, Health & Wellness Writer, and Entrepreneur. She has a B.S. in Health Administration with a focus on Aging Studies and an M.D. in Public Health. Before starting her business, Jessica worked for over 3 years as a Program Coordinator and Performance Improvement Leader in a hospital setting. Her roles focused on various senior initiatives such as fall reduction, preventing delirium, and addressing barriers in the healthcare system. Today, Jessica enjoys learning and educating others on aging in place, how tech solutions can help seniors, and health and wellness topics.

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