Column: Supporting aging parents


Commentary by Valerie J. Weesner

New members at the gym have shared they moved back to the greater Indianapolis area to reestablish connection with their adult children. Others have left to live near adult children out of state. On occasion, we hear of an adult child or grandchild coming back to town to help an aging parent or grandparent as well. Why do family members make those choices?

1. For connection.

2. To help care for grandchildren and be involved in their lives.

3. To share with their family the benefit of their wisdom.

4. To be close and accessible should they need each other.

I have been involved in many conversations regarding aging parents and their adult children. I am at the age where I can see situations both ways. I can see the issues adult children of elderly adults have in managing their parents’ affairs, helping with recovery from medical issues, helping with home and yard maintenance and hoping to safeguard parents from predators who seek to cheat them out of their hard-earned money. I can also see the older parents’ perspective – wanting to age in place, wanting to age with dignity, to not give up their possessions nor downsize or feel stuck in assisted living. Parents have spent a lifetime caring for their offspring and often hope for emotional and physical support from them as they age.

There is no perfect formula for how decisions get made in a family with aging adults. What I suggest is asking these questions before seeking answers:

  1. How do we identify each individual’s needs?
  2. How do we respect and value what each person needs?

3. How do we see that there is mutuality in the caregiving scenario?

When we need a family member to help, could we ask them what would make it easier to meet these needs? If they help pay bills, do we allow them access to our finances? If we need them to take us to medical appointments, do we schedule those appointments together to ensure that the times are manageable? If we need physical help to maneuver, or tangible help such as fixing the TV remote, could we begin to simplify these needs?

My hope is that we are kind, compassionate and considerate to one another and communicate effectively, so everyone feels heard and cared about as we navigate relationships in new ways.

Valerie Weesner is Motion 4 Life Fitness Staff psychologist.