Caring for Aging Parents


Elderly 1While that’s a topic not entirely new to Terry and to me, we’re certainly no experts. Her father, mother and stepfather passed away a few years ago. Her mother died after hospitalization from an auto accident, although she had previously spent some time in assisted living. Neither Terry’s father nor stepfather required long term care beyond the capacity of family and very close friends to provide. Yet the care family and friends did provide was both physically and emotionally demanding.

My father passed away over 33 years ago. Although he died at home, the time and energy Mom spent caring for him was very likely more consuming than any of us children might have imagined at the time. We weren’t there all the time. Mother was there, lovingly caring for her husband, watching him gradually slip away, leaving her and our family at the relatively tender age of 66 years.

As mentioned in a previous article, almost three weeks ago Mother moved to assisted living. She’s gradually making the adjustment, which may never be totally complete. Yet she knows she can’t care for herself and can no longer live alone, as she had since Daddy’s passing. She also knows her family can’t provide the almost constant care her significantly weakened condition demands.

She’s taking it one day at a time. So are the rest of us, including my sisters Carol (her husband Jerry is deceased), Karen and her husband Mel, Debbie and her husband Curtis, Terry and yours truly. From longer distances but nevertheless watching closely and praying fervently are Mother’s twelve grandchildren plus nine spouses; 22 great grandchildren plus two spouses; and three great great grandchildren (one deceased). Granny is dearly loved!

So how do loved ones care for an aging parent or grandparent or other beloved family member or friend? Last week I asked my readers for suggested answers to that question. Here are some of the responses I received:

  • Have patience! Lord willing, we will all live long enough to be in their position one day. I’ll want the love and respect of my family, not their sharp tongues and rolling eyes and all the ways children might express exasperation for a parent not hearing or not remembering.
  • If a parent has dementia or one of its many forms, whatever they say or do is not really “them” but the disease they have talking through them. Remember how they were when your parents were loving you and caring for you and supporting you. Display that same love for them by returning those feelings. It will make a world of difference!
  • Each offspring plays one of two roles. You are either the caregiver or the nurturer of the caregiver. This means all the children must work together and help the designated caregiver and the caregiver must work with the others. Harmony among family members is key in these situations for the whole family.
  • Spend time visiting, visiting, visiting, and listening, listening, listening.

In Mother’s case, Terry and I live too far away to make everyday visits feasible. Thankfully, Sisters Carol and Karen live close enough to Mom’s new address to visit her in person frequently. Sister Debbie lives in Little Rock but stays in phone contact every day and visits in person when she can. Terry and I visit Mother as often as possible, so far once each week. All of us call Mom frequently and hold her in our prayers daily.

In addition, Mother’s countless community friends, neighbors, fellow members of Cross Lutheran Church and Pastor Don Fraker also visit and communicate with her in many ways. And the wonderful folks at her assisted living facility are attentive to her needs in ways that transcend the care our family would be able to provide.

What are the factors to consider in caring for aging parents?

  • If they live at home, do what you can to make their lives safe, secure and comfortable.
  • Whether you live nearby or far away, continue to stay in touch with them frequently.
  • If the demands of their physical or emotional condition are beyond your ability to manage, investigate the alternatives for in home care, assisted living or nursing home care, as needed.
  • Do your best to see that their physical, emotional and spiritual needs are met.
  • Remember to assure them of your constant love and fervent prayers.

Here’s what I wrote to Mother’s extended family earlier this week: “Anything we’ve considered is done with Granny’s involvement and consent and with her best interest at heart. God only knows how long she will be here with us on earth. While occasionally commenting that her new apartment is not her home, she also says she realizes that this is where she needs to be at this time in her life. She knows, like each of us, that she’s but a stranger here on earth and heaven is her home.

Next week I’ll address some of the important financial matters that need attention in caring for aging parents. Stay tuned!

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