This past week I came across an interview with Queen Latifah, in which she discussed her new role as a caregiver to her aging mother. Latifah shared how much her life has changed since taking on this new responsibility. It was a harsh reminder that as we mature, we will face this challenge in one way or another.
Unfortunately, this reality is rarely discussed in most relationships—often because many don’t think about their parents’ age-related needs until a problem arises.
However, just like you would ask if a partner wants children, this should also be a question for your mate as your relationship gets serious. You must ask questions to ascertain if you are on the same page, as well as to establish a precedent of how things will be handled if a need were to arise.
Here are five conversations to have before marriage or after marriage when it comes to caring for an aging parent:
Discuss what your significant other feels is his or her responsibility regarding their aging parent—if any? Who else needs to be a part of the decision-making process for your loved one? Will you or your input be a consideration in the decision-making process; or will it be solely based on their desires? For example, will you have a say in whether or not that parent moves in with you or how much money your partner will contribute to that parent’s care?
How will you take care of an aging parent if they are no longer self-sufficient? Will you personally take care of them, hire a caregiver or put your loved one in a nursing home? Or is their care even your partner’s responsibility?
Of course, it’s harder to make these very difficult decisions when the moment is upon you. It can stress out any relationship. So, it’s best that you and your mate discuss these potential options well before a parent loses his/her independence.
Who will be responsible for paying for that loved ones’ expenses? How much would your mate allow you to financially contribute and help that parent save money toward potential medical issues for their later years? Will you pay for their care if they have no other income? Will you rely on insurance, Medicare, or other benefits to cover their expenses?
Taking care of others can become overwhelming and taxing. Relationships are the first thing to be challenged. In an effort to avoid getting lost, discuss ways to make each other and your relationship a priority in the midst of possible chaos.
Discuss other options (such as caretakers, family help, church help, etc.) to balance the load, so your relationship keeps a bit of normalcy.
Your Partner’s HELP
When it comes to taking care of our parents, it’s very easy to become territorial. We feel that we have to do everything, and we instantly become Wonder Woman or Superman. As noble as it sounds, you can’t do it all.
Discuss in what ways your significant would and wouldn’t be willing to assist you. Would your partner be willing to feed and entertain that partner? Would your partner be uncomfortable with more intimate assistance, such as cleaning or dressing a parent. Of course, your partner might be willing to take on more tasks when the time comes, but by talking about it in advance, you won’t put any heavy expectations on your spouse before he or she is ready.
It’s hard to watch the ones you love become less dependent. But by being proactive, you can alleviate some of the frustration and stress associated with caring for an aging parent. In doing so, you are able to salvage your sanity and your relationship.
BMWK, how are you dealing with aging parents and your relationships?