Moving Your Aging Parents to Israel?
Helping All Those Involved Improve Quality of Life
The decision to help move elderly parents to Israel is made with a lot of discussion and even more thought. Having parents nearby in Israel makes sense for many reasons: to help care for them, for them to help care for grandchildren, to allow your relationship to grow, to lower healthcare costs, and to increase time together as a family. However, no matter how much time is spent planning it, there are always unexpected and difficult situations that arise. These challenges can seem daunting and overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you throughout the process.
- Role Reversal: As parents age, children slowly become the caregivers and role reversal takes place. Most of us aren’t even aware that these changes are taking place. It is a gradual process where you suddenly realize that your parent’s well-being is as much your responsibility as your own child’s. Taking the time to accustom ourselves to this change is vital. We can even talk about it with our parent if it seems appropriate. The opportunity to be fully aware of this life cycle change is a GIFT. The specifics of the relationship may be changing, but the fundamentals are staying the same: one person is caring for another out of love. By helping your parent accept their new reality, your relationship can only grow.
- Self-Care: Most of us are so busy caring for children, working, helping our communities, and keeping our lives together on a daily basis that we rarely take the time to look around. Add another thing to that long list, Caring for Parents, and the whole mechanism might begin to weaken. This is where self-care becomes a necessity not a luxury. After all, life is a marathon not a sprint. When we know our own weaknesses and patterns, we can more easily adapt and continue to thrive. Each of us requires some down time- an opportunity to reflect and recharge. Use your new role as a caregiver for your parent as a chance to take a little time just for you. For example, when picking up mom’s medication at the pharmacy, treat yourself to a quiet cup of coffee. Consider taking up a new hobby or reconnecting with an old one. When we are each more present and calm, all those who depend on us benefit.
- Asking for Help: The process of moving your parents to Israel is never done alone. You are going to need the assistance and support of several agencies, bureaucracies, and individuals. The sooner you get comfortable asking for help, the easier this is going to be. NBN is a great resource- they can help point you in the direction you need to go. But only YOU can be the one to pick up the phone or walk into the office and ask for help. Whether we are discussing the Israeli health care system, packing and moving items to Israel, or getting Social Security checks deposited directly into an Israeli account- you need to learn to ask for help.
- Setting Boundaries: ’No’ is a complete sentence. Learning how to set appropriate boundaries is a difficult skill to acquire, but once mastered it is used daily. Having to tell an overly attached parent that calling a dozen times a day is not appreciated can be taxing (to put it mildly). However, living with that level of annoyance can be worse. Once we can talk with our parent openly and honestly about our levels of comfort, that skill can be transferred to other relationships in our lives. Our currently needy parent might be just the push we require to become firmer but kinder to other people in our lives.
- Acceptance. Your parent is going through some huge changes, as are you. These changes require patience and compassion on your part. Expect that this journey will have some ups and downs. Every journey does. Communicating with your parents about their expectations and disappointments will help. Being honest with ourselves and each other can only benefit the relationship.
If we can learn to listen to our parents in these circumstances, respond with compassion, establish clear boundaries, ask for help when we need it, take a break when we become overwhelmed, and honestly admit our hopes and disappointments- then we have turned the challenges of daily life into the opportunity of truly living.
Michelle is a Recreational Therapist with over 15 years of experience working in the Geriatric field, including Baycrest Center in Toronto.
Judith is a PhD in Cognitive Psychology with work experience at the National Institutes of Health.