Updated: Dec 3, 2020
If you’re like many today, your senior parent(s) may have moved in with you during the pandemic. While this time can be a truly special time, it is different than their just coming for the holidays. In my last blog, I shared ways to easily accommodate the picky eaters your parents may have become. Today, I’d like to address another question you may be facing:
When did my parents become such over-planners?
Many seniors are planners. It’s not unusual. They’ve raised families, juggled jobs and family responsibilities, and enjoyed a new season of life after you and your siblings moved out. They’ve lived their lives and enjoyed their independence. But now that they are in their senior years, a few things may have changed. Planning makes them feel secure, and this need to plan is especially true when it comes to having basic necessities and enough medication. When you’re worried about things like your heart, diabetes, or other chronic disorders — having enough medicine takes a front seat in driving your thoughts and reactions.
The lack of a plan creates fear and stress no one needs — especially during a crisis. Planning allows seniors to gain back a bit of control and to feel productive. After all, even though they’ve moved back in with you temporarily, they’re quite used to being in control and doing these types of planning activities for themselves.
Here are a few simple things you can do to calm their concerns, reduce stress (for them and for you), and help them to still maintain (and feel) some level of independence.
1. Go Ahead—Stock Up a Little – While some people reacted to the pandemic by hoarding supplies, it’s not hoarding to stock up a little on a few supplies that are essential to your parents’ well-being. You definitely want to keep an extra month’s supply of medications on hand (and if your insurance will allow you to get the 90-day supply, do that). Also, look at what other things are essential for their well-being and comfort. Keeping an extra month’s supply of incontinence products, Epsom salt, lotions, pain rubs, and especially their favorite snacks will go a long way to helping your parents feeling secure.
2. Talk with Them – Talk with them about what they need to stay healthy and comfortable, and come to an agreement on how much is needed. During a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re naturally going to be a bit more worried about running out of things. While it’s helpful to stock up a little as noted in #1, it’s also important to talk with them about what’s going on and about what’s truly needed. This is not a time to exert your control, but rather, a time to speak calmly and confidently about the situation and how they can help you make sure you do have sufficient supplies. Agree on things like how low the supply of something should be before adding it to the grocery list. Coming to this agreement allows them to have input and gives them a sense of control.
3. The List – Let them help with the grocery list. As mentioned in #2, agreeing on when something should be added to the list is an important step. Now, involve them and help them to feel like they are contributing in a positive way.
4. Stress-relieving Activities – At the root of this need to plan and be in control is fear. Fear of running out. Fear of getting sick and of dying. Fear of not being able to control things. Address the fear by encouraging them to become involved in other activities. Turn off the tv and the constant, negative news reports. Activities like meditating and forest-bathing are great to calm oneself and bring inner peace. Other activities like gardening, baking, working on a puzzle, listening to music that they like, or even watching old movies are also great ways to take their focus off the pandemic, reduce stress, and channel their planning energies in a positive way.
More than anything, my best advice to you for your over-planning parents, Wellness Warriors, is to be patient with them. None of us have been through this type of pandemic before and we’re all learning how to navigate these waters. Accommodate their requests as best as you can, encourage their participation in the planning and shopping process, get them involved in relaxing activities, and, most of all, love them through this. They’ve probably loved you through worse situations.
Next time, we’ll discuss a potentially sensitive subject: your parents’ need for time in the bathroom. You don’t want to miss it!