Men are often known for the important quality of having a protective instinct when it comes to family. This drive hearkens back to the long-gone days when we stood guard against threats lurking outside our ancestor’s caves or when we wandered the prehistoric savannas.
However, research has suggested men are just as capable of the nurturing behaviors traditionally associated with women. Men may have an evolved predisposition toward aggressive protection of loved ones (thanks, testosterone!), but that doesn’t mean we have no ability to be nurturing. Similarly, women can act in the protector role as well as serve as nurturers.
The point is, we should no longer overlook the male potential for caregiving. Even if it somehow rises from a protective rather than a nurturing instinct, it really doesn’t matter. The end result is the same: the urge to preserve the well-being of those we cherish.
But it isn’t just taking care of the kids and our spouses that matters. We should also do whatever we can to look after our elders as they enter their twilight years. For many of us, our parents were real-life unsung heroes. As they make the sometimes difficult transition into old age, it’s time for us to return the favor.
With ever-increasing lifespans, elderly parents need extra help and support for longer periods. There are many ways we can step up and make life easier for them. The first step is accepting the often thankless but ultimately fulfilling role of caregiver, just as they did for us.
Persistence Crushes the Chronic
Health problems inevitably affect us all as we age. Chronic medical issues such as arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and even mental disorders increase over time. It’s vital you educate yourself on any issues that arise, because most likely you will have to serve as an elder’s medical advocate.
Yes, this may involve taking your parents to doctor’s appointments, the hospital, or getting them emergency medical attention when needed. You must remember to apply your strength of will and persistence to tackle chronic illness.
Keep in mind that mental disorders can develop without the sufferer noticing. Though we’ve made great strides against heart disease and other physical ailments that creep up on us in old age, we’re not gaining as much ground against afflictions such as Alzheimer’s. Education is key: learn the signs of specific mental disorders so you can spot them early.
Keep Them Company
Sometimes all our elders need is a little extra company. Post-retirement life can come with a lot of isolation, and loneliness can be a big problem. Paying regular visits goes a long way to help prevent depression.
Try to see your parents as often as you can, guys. Yes, many of us may have beefs with our dads, but it’s time to let go of all that junk. Doing so will not just help his peace of mind, but yours as well.
Spending time is particularly important for parents who have lost a spouse. You may even want to get them a pet to keep them company. But even if both your parents are still around, a quick visit can lift their moods dramatically.
Do More for Them
Studies have shown that nearly half of all seniors have trouble doing daily activities. Try to ease the load for your parents by doing more for them. You may offer to drive them around. You could also assist them with handling their financial matters. Even small things like doing laundry and cleaning for them can be a huge help.
Living Under the Same Roof Again
If a parent’s health becomes a particular problem, you may have to make the difficult decision to either find an assisted living home for them, or move them into your own home. Another potential alternative is to seek in-home assistance. It can give them someone to keep them company, handle daily tasks, and help with medical matters.
Who Cares for the Caregiver?
Finally, no matter what you decide about their situation, being there for elderly parents can be a particular strain on finances and relationships as well as your own well-being, so no one will fault you for feeling overwhelmed sometimes (or all the time). Ultimately, be sure to take care of yourself in the process, as caregivers themselves can experience issues of their own.
Bottom line: don’t become a sacrifice instead of a hero in your effort to care for your loved ones. You may not get all the thanks you deserve, but the rewards of being a caregiver can far outweigh a pat on the back.
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