There are times when something happens that really brings home to us the reality of aging. One of these times is the realization that our own parents are aging fast and becoming frail. This is often accompanied by ill health.
We don’t want to focus on getting old but unfortunately we can’t stop it from happening. When our parents become old and start having health problems we are reminded of how time passes too quickly and that aging does not come alone.
I have just returned from a trip to the UK where I spent almost a month with my own aging and sick mother. At almost 89 years of age I was beginning to think that my mom could be one of those that may live to be 100. She has always been relatively healthy and active; at least this was so until about 3 months ago when she was diagnosed with cancer. Now things are changing fast and seeing a relatively healthy person that has always been in your life starting to fade is very difficult.
We are an aging population and it’s worth noting some of the changes that we will probably have to face ourselves one day. Maybe if we are aware we can make some adjustments or be better prepared for when the time comes. Having the right conversations with your children or other family members while you are still young enough can be very helpful to everyone.
Over the years as my mother has aged I have noticed many changes, and not only with my own mother but with other elderly parents of friends and family members. It doesn’t seem that long ago that my mother and her husband traveled long distances to visit me in Canada and also my brother in Florida. They would come for extended visits. Besides this they would also take other vacations. Until about a year ago they always went out three evenings a week to their local Legion where they would often have a few dances. Besides this they have also gone out for lunch 6 days a week. Saturday has been their day for lunch at home and then they would go out in the evening.
This has been the way it was for many years. While it’s less than a year ago since they stopped going out at night the lunches out have only ceased quite recently since my mother got sick. Many of the other significant changes have been happening over a number of years.
So when did things really begin to change?
• About 10 years ago they stopped taking long trips, so no longer came to visit.
• Gradually they have tended to want to stay closer to home.
• Not wanting to stay away from home over night
• Regular afternoon naps.
• Becoming very habitual with a lot of things
• Dislike change.
• Repeating conversations more and more.
• Not so conscious of personal hygiene –not changing their clothes as often
• Not noticing marks on their clothes
• Things becoming too much trouble
• Not noticing that their surroundings are becoming shabby
• Not wanting anyone to do anything to improve their home surroundings.
• Not seeing as well
• Not hearing as well
• Getting forgetful
• Just not wanting to bother with things that once interested them.
• Forgetting birthdays and other once important dates and events.
• Not willing to get rid of stuff they don’t use or need.
• Often not eating and drinking enough.
Many of these things are worrying and often frustrating for family members. We want them to be comfortable. We want them to be clean and cared for and often these are very touchy subjects. We don’t want to hurt or offend them but often they do get defensive if you say anything to them. This is where having conversations about genuine concern is a good idea and giving or getting permission to deal with a number of these issues in advance. Some parents will say to their kids when I’m older tell me if I make a noise when I eat, or if I smell, or my clothes are dirty and I need to change. Often we are embarrassed for them we know that they would never have gone out with stains on their clothes.
Always be respectful, support your parents and be as kind as possible. Remember one day this may be you.
In the meantime live as healthy a life as you possibly can. Keep your mind active and give yourself the best chance of successful aging.