Aging Parents, Aging Me…

Thanksgiving is approaching, how is this possible is all I can say? Isn’t it funny that when looking ahead time seems to stand still and yet when we look back we say where did it go, all the while time has moved at the same minute by minute pace.

As this year begins to wind down I have started my mental list making of what has created memories for me this year. At the top of my list is having my mother in-law move in with us. This has been both a time for relationship building and also a time of facing the hard reality of aging parents. I have heard it said that you can talk to parents about everything except money and sex, also known as the powdered butt syndrome. It is just as difficult I think to talk about anything that begins to infringe on a persons individuality and personal liberties.

I am reminded of a time many years ago when I was asked by my Grandmother to mow their lawn. As I zig-zagged across the lawn I looked up to see my grandfather staring at me through the picture window, bitterness laced his facial features and stirred me at once with empathy and sadness. Now as my wife and I are faced with our own parents aging it hits me a little closer to home. One day at a time takes on a new reality for us, as does the realities of my own mortality. It used to be that funerals forced me to consider my own eventual demise and it was easy to nonchalantly fall on my faith and rest in the confidence of eternal security. This is different… now I am considering the what if’s of a debilitating event and how that might impact not only those around me but also my own quality of life.

I don’t like to think about these things and I am certainly not going to dwell on them, still, it seems prudent to give it some thought and perhaps discuss it with my loved ones in the hopes of at least avoiding last-minute disagreements or misplaced expectations.

Have any of you dealt with these kinds of thoughts? I would be interested to know what your experiences have been and what kinds of things you put in place in order to minimize surprises?


About JT

I am a happily married man with 6 children and have an autoimmune disease. I hope to share my story and explore others' stories and perhaps together both of our lives will be enhanced.
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9 Responses to Aging Parents, Aging Me…

  1. I grew up in a family where family helps family, so I was caregiver many times over between 16 to 23 years of age. The hardest one was taking care of my mom who almost did not see her 50th birthday – that was a tough time. Shortly I will be facing my 40s and I think for me it is more about having parents who will be in their 70s – YIKES! I try to just live one day at a time and keep the major surprises to a minimum. I think it is great that you are able to take care of an aging parent in your home – not easy some days. Have a Great One!

    • JT says:

      Thanks Renee, yeah, one day at a time is sometimes more of a day than others 🙂 We want to be there for our moms, (both our dads are already gone as are all our grandparents), I don’t want to assume our children will feel the same way. It is a somewhat tenuous discussion to have as I want it to be something they feel strongly about and in no way pressured or guilt-ed into doing for us as we age.

  2. Dr. McGann says:

    I am uncertain that one can every truly be prepared … enough…for life’s surprises. Dependance on one’s resilience and faith is truly the key. While I do have aging parents, I too do not dwell on the “inevitable” but have plans in place – only finances though. Everything else will take care of itself…I hope and pray. I can honestly tell you that it is easier to “see and discuss preparation” on the other side of the fence for patients and their families. When the time comes, you will know what to do … and you and your family will be just fine! Your children will consider it an honor to be able to give back to you … when the time comes. We must prepare/practice to receive from Children! Thanks for sharing!

    • JT says:

      Thank You Dr. McGann, I agree with you that there is only so much we can do ahead of time … perhaps just being mindful and discussing it is huge step in the right direction. I don’t have the confidence that my children will feel as honored as you alluded to,however time will tell here as well :-). Thank you for the affirming and insightful comment!

  3. My husband and his family took care of his dad until he died 2 months ago. They all agreed that it was biblical for them to sacrifice and care for him and not put him in a nursing home. It was a hard 4 years, but I hope it was a great lesson for my kids. They saw their father sacrifice his time, money and career to take care of a parent. True love.

  4. I’ve thought about this a lot since we moved my father up here in 1999, after he was diagnosed with alzhiemer’s. Fortunately, he had an excellent “old-time” pension and retiree health care plan that allowed us to arrange for very good care through 2007 when he died.

    I was mulling over your post when I spotted this quote by the Dalai Lama on Facebook:

    “However capable and skillful an individual may be, left alone, he or she will not survive. When we are sick or very young or very old, we must depend on the support of others. There is no significant division between us and other people, because our basic natures are the same.”

    It’s a long and complex subject, but to my mind the difficulties many of us will face in aging illustrate the failure of the nuclear family as our basic social unit, as opposed to the extended families that were the norm here not that long ago. My father’s grandparent’s in rural Minnesota didn’t have to worry about pensions or who would care for them in their final years (although it’s also true that most of them didn’t live long enough to have the problems of today’s seniors).

    Those people I’ve known who did well at the end of their lives – with or without family – have been ones who lived in such a way as to make others think of them as family.

    • JT says:

      That is a good point Morgan, the family unit has changed dramatically and the effects of those changes ripple down through our social structure in ways I am sure no one fathomed.The battle to maintain family intimacy in light of these facts and many others seems at times insurmountable. Still it is a worthy goal and one that in my opinion is time well spent. In regard to your Dad, I am glad that the times as well as some prudence resulted in the kind of care that provided a passing with dignity. As we get older and the times continue to change a lot more questions than answers seem to be on my horizon.

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