What to do when you have children + aging parents
Toni Julian, health advocate
I’m delighted to be back. Some of you may have noticed I haven’t been writing for Sigona’s the last few months. I have missed this, knowing you and I have a connection even though we have not met. As with all things in life, situations change and we encounter bumps and challenges in our journey we call living. After taking care of my papa for five years during a long terminal illness, he passed away about eight weeks ago, and I needed some time to regroup.
Many of us are at that stage of life where we have children to nurture at home or are heading off to college, and parents that are slowing down or declining. This is such a natural part of life, but something that we aren’t typically prepared for. It’s that caught-in-the-middle feeling where you know you are the glue, and everyone looks to you for strength and guidance.
I am filled with gratitude to have had the opportunity to be available for my papa; to help with his medical, his finances and very importantly, his nutrition and fitness so he could be in the best position possible to endure chemotherapy. It gave me the gift of getting to know him as my dear friend.
So, with that in mind, I’d love to share with you my top five tips for taking care of yourself and your loved ones now so everyone will be in the best position possible to move through the inevitable, with grace.
- Keep yourself strong | When you’re in a stressful, time-impacted situation make getting enough sleep and eating nutritionally the highest importance to keep your immune system strong. Other things can wait because you can’t afford to get sick yourself.
- Share your healthy habits with your parents | Recognize that if a parent gets sick, they can only handle so much. Even if they are open-minded, dealing with doctors and the feeling of overwhelm can just be too much. When a parent is sick, it’s difficult for them to learn how to step up their nutrition. It’s in their best interest to make healthy changes now so they can avoid disease, or be their strongest if they do happen to get ill. I made my papa’s life a little easier by meal prepping smoothies. In small baggies I added frozen berries, juiced lemon in cubes, protein powder, spinach and flaxseed meal. I’d make five or six at a time and store them in his freezer. All he needed to do was add almond milk and sometimes flaxseed oil if we needed to boost his calories. It gave him instant nutrition. He loved them!
- Give them dignity | There is a fine balance between “taking charge” of an ailing parent and “supporting them” in their efforts. When you’re sick, you feel out of control. As the adult child, it may feel like you are being micro-managed, but all they are really doing is trying to control the aspects of their lives that they can, because they feel so out of control with their health. Allowing them to make their own decisions, with your guidance and support, is enabling them to feel empowered. This was especially difficult, but recognize it is their life, even though the roles may be reversed.
- It’s okay to ask for help | If you are in a pinch and need help from other family and friends, do not be afraid to ask. It’s truly not a time to be proud. Maybe a friend can pick up your kids from school, bring over dinner so you don’t have to cook, or take your dog to the groomer. Life still goes on, and you would do this for them if they needed you. One of the nicest things a friend did for me was to buy pre-cut veggies so I would have some fresh produce in the house that’s easy to eat. It was a few years ago, but very memorable and I still appreciate her kindness. Plus, you’re giving your friend an opportunity to feel good about helping you too!
- Think grab and go | Keeping healthy, wholesome food at hand is so helpful! It keeps you from going extended periods of time between eating, or worse yet, eating unhealthy, processed convenience foods. I always kept dried fruits and nuts, Greek yogurt and pre-cut veggies on hand. You can find an abundant supply at Sigona’s! My TONI’S Hot Protein Meals were a life-saver, truly. During long hospital visits for weeks on end, I’d bring the grab-and-go cups for the family and for the nurses. I’d often bring cases for my papa’s oncologist to help her get through her day. They all appreciated having something healthy and convenient to keep them fueled for their long days.
CHECK OUT next week’s story where I’ll share with you my grab and go Protein Berry Parfaits!
Please share this with your friends who would like to make sure this phase of their life is lived with grace!
From my heart to yours,
Toni Julian is a nationally renowned health advocate, nutrition adviser, fitness expert, and author of BITE ME! Change Your Life One Bite at a Time, as well as a 50-something mom of four! She is the 2017 recipient of the Top Women of Influence by the Silicon Valley Business Journal, and is on the board of directors for NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners). Toni is the creator of TONI’S ultra-convenient, protein meals, a complete and healthy hot protein meal that’s ready in minutes. Get yours at Sigona’s! Visit www.ToniJulian.com