As we reach 50 and over unless our parents have already passed on most of us will start having a number of concerns about our aging parents. The degree of assistance that
you can personally provide them if and when they need it will depend a lot on whether you live close to them, also according to the level of care they may need depending on the state of their health.
When distance is an issue
If you’re like me and live in a different country to your parent(s) the chances are that you are not physically able to assist them as much as you would like. This in itself can be very stressful and a big concern for many of us. We may be able to help financially to some extent. Maybe help them with purchasing medical and mobility aids if they need them like a walker or other aids to help them be as comfortable and mobile as possible, but it’s not the same as being able to be there in person offering our personal support.
When you live far away even though you may talk on the phone on a regular basis; there can be a lot of guilt that goes along with all the other concerns. I have been very fortunate that my mother has maintained reasonably good health and at 88 years of age is fairly active and able to continue to go out on a daily basis. My mom and her husband, who she married when she was 70, continue to live in their own home. My dad passed away when my mom in her 50s.
Things don’t always go according to plan
When I emigrated with my family close to 28 years ago, I thought that my mother would join us once we had settled. However, by the time we settled, which took much longer than I anticipated, my mother had already started building a new life where she was and decided to stay in the UK where my one brother and his family still live.
When the roles reverse
Until about seven years ago my mother and her husband liked to travel a lot. They visited us in Canada on a regular basis. They would also visit my other brother in Florida. They would usually come for extended periods; therefore we saw a lot of them. During the past seven years they haven’t wanted to travel the long distances and as time has passed they have traveled less and less to the point they stay quite close to home now. So, I have traveled back to the UK to visit them as often as Possible.
My brother that resides in the UK has been wonderful. He phones my mother every evening and will drop by to check on them on a fairly regular basis. Although he lives over an hour drive away from our mother; my brother will often go to get them to spend the day at his home and then he will take them back home later. Until a couple of years ago they would have driven themselves. Fortunately, my stepfather wisely chose to retire their car and give up driving when he started to get some eye problems. At least we don’t have to have the dreaded too old to drive safely conversation.
Stay aware of changes in your parents
Being the one to see them regularly; my Brother is the one that notices any new changes in them. Of course there are things that worry him and he shares his concerns with my other brother and I. We talk about the best ways to deal with issues that arise. When my brother and I go back to the UK to visit we are usually prepared for any changes that may have occurred. We also try to have a visit with her doctor to discuss how she is doing.
The main things that I have noticed as they age
As they have got older they have become very set in their ways. They have their routine and it rarely changes. They go out to eat lunch most days; which is wonderful. They always go to the same 2 or 3 places; and always at the same time. They are well known in these establishments and expected by the staff. I am sure this makes them feel more comfortable.
Do not disturb
They don’t want to be disturbed so are very reluctant to have anyone go to their home to help them. If any of us start moving things around or try to sort things out they don’t like that either. They will say they will do it themselves but they never do. Like many of the elderly they like to hold onto things they never use and often things that are of no use.
When they need help
My brothers and I agree that they are at the stage where they should be having some home help. We want them to have someone go into their home once or twice a week to help them by doing some cleaning, and other chores. One of the problems is that they no longer seem to notice what needs to be done.
When help is rejected
Some seniors would welcome having someone do some house cleaning but for others it’s considered insulting and a challenge. For us it’s become a challenge as our stepdad is very stubborn and proud. He has taken care of his wife (my mother) very well for a long time and is not prepared to give that up. He has even given himself the title as her ‘Happy Slave’. He still thinks he can continue as he used to, but it is becoming more evident that he is not able to. I am quite sure that my mother would be far more open to having some home help but he is very resistant to it.
We see the differences that they don’t. This is a couple that were very smart; now often their clothes are not as clean as they should be. Their home needs painting, for safety reasons we want them to have a walk in tub or shower stall to lessen the risk of falling. The work could easily be arranged but they do not want the hassle of having someone there to do the work, and they won’t stay at my brothers for a couple of days while it’s done either. If the subject is broached get agitated and insist that it’s all fine as it is. We have discussed our concerns with our mother’s doctor and he assures us that they are doing wonderful compared to most their age and that we are very lucky. I would have to agree when all things are considered but it doesn’t stop us worrying.
Respecting their wishes
As difficult as it sometimes is; we have to respect their wishes. If it comes to a time when it becomes a dangerous situation, then we will have no choice but to step in.
When it comes down to it they just want to be left alone. They are comfortable and the last thing we want to do is jeopardize our relationship. It’s especially hard when you live so far away and are not able to easily patch up any bad feelings if something is said that is taken in the wrong context.
Talk it out while you can
It’s important to keep in mind that this will be us one day. How would we want to be treated what would work for us? This may help when it comes to dealing with your own parents. Maybe this is a good conversation to have with our parents and our own children sooner than later.
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