By Corinne Wnek
It’s been said over and over again that the most important job in the world, and arguably the hardest job, is that of being a parent. When our children are young and in need of adult guidance to help them grow into responsible and productive individuals, other experienced parents seem to come out of the ground like ants at a picnic, ready to offer advice about such things as nutrition, sleeping, potty training and, later, the need for independence.
But no plethora of advice is handy when these exact issues plague our aging parents and we, as their adult aging children, are called upon to parent our elderly parents. This is a more complicated issue than it might appear at first glance because the response to elderly parent care has much to do with their physical and mental condition. For those of us with still relatively healthy parents, it can be difficult to watch others, not so fortunate, struggle with physical disabilities, financial problems and the onset of memory loss.
A while back, I remember thinking how lucky I was to still have a healthy mother, after seeing an in-law go through a heart wrenching time. Due to illness, life was seeping from her more and more each day. But even though my own mother was still pretty good, I began to focus on what might lie ahead for her, and for my sister and me in the not so distant future, if mom’s health would begin to deteriorate. Who would care for her? How would our financial picture change? What about work or that much needed little getaway that we kept getting put off for a better time?
It is difficult to watch older, care taker children rearrange their lives, some more than others, all the while dealing with their own serious health issues and handling attendance at work. I just couldn’t keep thinking about this stuff or I would surly go down in flames. Yet, just to make myself feel better, I started to check several times a day on my mother and stop over every night to eyeball her so I would feel better about her living alone, which was her stubborn choice.
Of course, in unhealthy elderly parents, things are a little more progressive in that further deterioration is likely to run its natural course. There are decisions about assisted living and nursing homes to make when decline really sets in or live-in help for those who can afford this option. Still, resistance to a loss of independence is traumatic for the elderly, or for anyone. Seeing our parents live longer, but not necessarily better, is traumatic for children, even very grown up ones.
I recently made a decision to take my head out of the sand and come to terms with the fact that aging is not easy or pleasant and, if given a choice, I would stop time. And although the care of our elderly parents has many blessings, there are also many burdens as we age much longer right alongside them.
Is this the new mid-life crises for baby boomers?
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