I had a difficult senior client who had three children. Of her children, only one son would check in on her once every three weeks for 30 minutes – no exaggeration. The other two, she hadn’t heard from in years.
Some might say, wow, what terrible children, but they only saw the frail 89 year old, not the verbally abusive person. She was verbally abusive with my staff and I imagine emotionally abusive when it came to her children and their spouses. She told me that she once told her daughter-in-law that she should move to Siberia so the whole family could be happy again.
It isn’t hard to imagine why two of her children decided to keep their distance. Sadly, not everyone grew up in a happy, emotionally stable home, and as your parents get older, it can be difficult to reconcile your feelings from the past – or possibly present – with the guilt of what you “should” do. So how does an adult child balance their mental well-being with the needs of their elderly parent, particularly if they are experiencing cognitive decline or do not have financial resources?
This solution makes the most sense as it allows you to keep your distance; however, it is only viable if you or your parents have the means to cover the costs.
If you really want remain removed and your parent requires a lot care, you can hire a geriatric care manager. These professionals, also known as elder care managers, typically act as a liaison between the senior requiring care and their family and medical providers. They can do anything from securing in-home care to managing schedules and care procedures for the caree. The Aging Life Care Association is a nonprofit organization that provides information on working with a geriatric care manager and has a listing of members you can reach out to. This is also a great resource for anyone who is a long-distance caregiver.
If your elderly parent still has his or her mental faculties but has suffered physical decline, hiring a caregiver is an excellent option. You will can have someone come in for a few hours a few times a week or 24 hour care. There are so many caregiving services that you should be able to find a good fit. Of course, if your parent is very difficult and verbally abusive, he or she may burn through many caregivers, but agencies are used to dealing with situations like this and can work with your family to find a good match.
Senior services are a booming industry. You should be able to find a resource to take the burden of care off of you. There are professionals who handle bill paying and financial tasks, cleaning services, home organizing, transportation and even social companions.
Not everyone is in a position to hire out services, so what does a family do when an elderly parent needs care and for whatever reason, the family is unable to provide that care?
Your first stop should be Benefits.gov. Before you visit the site, gather up all of your parents’ financial, health, education and wealth information to input into the system. Once you have entered everything, the site will provide you with a list of benefits, government programs and supplements available to your parents.
Your next step is to visit the National Council on Aging Benefits Checkup website. It will ask similar questions, but it may provide additional resources that your parents can tap into.
And finally, each county or city has an Area Agency on Aging office, which is staffed with professionals who know every elder program and service and funding source in your area. Not only will they provide resources, they can help with the application process.
These programs can help you set up low or no-cost in home care and assist with finding low cost housing, alleviating family members. If you have cut yourself off completely from a toxic family member but want to ensure that they get proper care in their old age, you can always share these links with them or someone who is in communication with them.
However you decide to manage your relationship with a toxic parent is purely a personal decision and you shouldn’t let guilt or judgment from others impact you – easier said than done, of course. You need to care for your own well-being and take care of your needs.
My husband had a very challenging relationship with his mother, and for a long time, I couldn’t understand or relate, since I grew up in a very supportive household. I had to learn to let go of the “shoulds” for their relationship and accept that my normal isn’t their normal and he needed to do what was healthy for him. Therapy, support groups and online discussion boards can help you find other people who had your “normal” and make you feel less alone.
Have you experience the challenge of caring for toxic parents or in-laws?