Aging parents. It’s a life stage we always know will come, but never really know what it will look like or how to prepare. The Bible calls us to honor our parents, but the command isn’t just for children under 18. God intends us to honor, love and serve our parents throughout our lives and theirs. Though the demands of life change as our parents age, the command to love them does not. As a senior living provider, Buckner staff spend significant time around aging parents and their children. Here are seven ways we’ve seen to best love aging parents.
1. Make time.
As adults in corporate America, we lead busy, fast-paced lives. So fast, in fact, that it can sometimes be easy to forget about our parents. But there will come a time when you’ll wish you had spent as much time with them as you could. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just a few minutes to show you care. Take the Sunday afternoon to go visit. Deliver flowers on Valentine’s Day. Make the phone call just because. You’ll be glad you did.
Intentionally ask your parents about the things they’ve seen and done in their lives. Enjoy the stories…even if you’ve heard them 51 times. Showing interest will make them feel seen and valued. Take every opportunity to learn things about them—and from them—while you can.
3. Ask the hard questions.
Aging parents will often be reluctant to admit loneliness, changing health and fears about aging. Ignoring these issues, though, would be unloving. Ask your parents how they’re really doing. Having these regular check-in conversations now lays the foundation for harder conversations in the future.
4. Be willing to serve, but also willing to be served.
It may sound obvious, but your parents will always be your parents. They’re going to want to cook you dinner, babysit your kids and take you soup when you’re sick. Let them do this. They’re not fragile, and you’re not invincible. Honor their independence while it lasts, and love them by letting them love you the best ways they know how.
5. Get involved with their lives.
Much like it’s important to know about your parents’ history, it’s equally important to know about their daily lives. Get involved with their day-to-day. Go to doctor appointments with them. They’ll want someone else there. Does your parent have a bucket list? Help them check some items off the list. You’ll have just as much fun as they will!
6. Give them the respect they’ve earned.
Let’s face it, your parents have earned serious respect through the years. They’ve invested time, resources and emotional energy to help build the life you have today. Honor the things they’ve done. Show them respect by still asking for their advice and regularly thanking them for what they’ve given you.
7. Show patience.
There will be things, like technology, that you’ll understand better than your parents. Be patient with their questions, frequent phone calls and frustration. Remember you were there once too, when they taught you addition and subtraction, how to tie your shoes and recite the ABCs. They might not ever understand what you’re trying to teach them, but at least they’ll know you care. Bottom line, having aging parents is going to take courage. It’s going to take sacrifice and patience and a willingness to understand. But aren’t these the same things they needed when raising you?