As children most of us had a feeling of safety and security. We were taken care of by our parents and didn’t worry much about food or clothing. We just were. Naturally we had to learn things, but that is what childhood is about…learning the basics.
When we grow up, many of us have children. It’s our turn to be the guide, the provider, the nurturer and the teacher. It goes by so fast…though it doesn’t feel like it when we have to get up in the night to feed a hungry baby or care for a sick child. It’s yet another change.
The children grow up and move away. This is sort of like a waiting time for us. Many still have jobs, but the pressure seems to let up in some ways. Use this time wisely because the next change is what this article is all about.
We become parents of our own parents. It seems to start in small ways. Wayward bills, a forgotten conversation, maybe even a lost pair of eyeglasses, but not frequently. As it continues things get worse. I don’t know about others, but for us the small warning signs were missed. We all forget things. A bill could have been lost in the mail. I have actually looked for my glasses when they were right on my head. It’s the consistency that is what will eventually be noticed.
Sometimes we can catch problems while they are small and do something about them. There are ways to maintain cognitive function or at least slow it down. However, don’t beat yourself up if it takes something more drastic to bring it to your attention. I’ve seen it happen and unless you actually live with or very near an elderly parent it might be difficult to see things progress.
This life change actually changes everything for an entire family. There are living arrangements that have to change, the car keys may have to be taken away along with the checkbook. This is not going to go over well. The best advice I can give here is to have the doctor and/or banker tell the parent in question so it it’s not like an order from “the peanut gallery.” Parents don’t like being parented overmuch.
This is going to be one of the most stressful times of your life. Besides watching someone who was your hero as a child and a friend once you became adults begin to fail you have to deal with the attitude of the parent. We get lectured to, told off and have to deal with tears. We have to watch her struggle from the bed to the bathroom (she has a caregiver for this). We also have had to hire caregivers and make sure they were a good match.
It isn’t easy. I guess it isn’t supposed to be easy. The most frightening part of this experience is wondering if we’re going to be that way when we get older. Will we yell at our kids? Will we fight over the car keys? Will we have to let our children wipe our tears without stopping what caused the tears? I hope not.
So, what do we do? At the moment, we sit and listen to the lectures. We remind our elder that the doctor ordered the key removal. We hug and wipe the tears but don’t fire the night time caregivers. It’s all we can do. I hope it’s enough.