by: Mark Etinger
"I find it a lousy deal. There's no advantage in getting older. I'm 74 now. You don't get smarter, you don't get wiser, you don't get more mellow, you don't get more kindly. Nothing good happens. Your back hurts more. You get more indigestion. Your eyesight isn't as good. You need a hearing aid. It's a bad business getting older, and I would advise you not to do it."
Immortal words spoken by an immortal man: Woody Allen said this at last year's Cannes Festival, and while anyone getting older can surely sympathize, this provides great insight for anyone with aging parents. Many people get frustrated with their aging parents, whether because they feel smothered by the need to help them, or worried that they can't. Really, though, there's little reason to worry. Caring for aging parents might seem like a daunting task, but truthfully, it doesn't have to be. You and your parent or parents just need to find the right balance.
One of the best ways you can help aging parents is by making sure they know they have nothing to be embarrassed about. Many people, as they get older, experience the pains of aging, which are often unpleasant and necessitate a lot of help. Things that are simple for you--climbing stairs, getting in and out of the bathtub, driving a car--may no longer be quite as easy for them. They shouldn't be ashamed of this--if you need to help them get upstairs or drive them around, joke about how they would do the same for you, then remind them that they did.
Another great way to care for your aging parents is by helping them stay healthy. This may be more difficult than it sounds--as the body ages the immune system ages along with it, no longer working as well as it once did. But that doesn't mean your parents should neglect their health. Make sure they remember to eat healthily; take them to their general physician to get an idea of what kind of diet they should be maintaining, and if they should take vitamins. Most likely the doctor will confirm this--older people tend to want to eat less, which means they'll need to get certain nutrients elsewhere. Your aging parents might consider having blood work done to see if there are particular vitamins they should be taking.
Your parents' aging doesn't have to take a toll on their or your lives. As long as you're there for them while offering encouragement when they want to do things for themselves, everyone's lifestyle will be able to remain largely the same. Just keep in mind that they will need your help from time to time--be there, just as they were there for you as you grew up.
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