Thursday, April 19, 2007


by Mary Andrews

So they’re old and wrinkled and grey, are they? And you’re starting to wonder if they’re just out to get you. You bend over backwards to help them. Despite work and other commitments, you take them places, see that they eat right, make doctor appointments, help keep their place clean—and they fight you every step of the way.

You’re starting to feel like the soccer ball instead of soccer mom. Why don’t our aging parents appreciate how hard this is on us? We’re all in this together aren’t we…well, AREN’T WE? (At this point, you wonder if they’re deaf or ignoring you OR maybe they’re in denial and don’t admit to being deaf yet. It can get complicated.)

Well, for those of you out there in this predicament, I salute you. Hopefully, your children will have more experience navigating these waters when you cross them. Maybe you can work up a wish list for the future while it’s still fresh in your mind. They say that education and forethought is a great equalizer.

I’m willing to bet that there are plenty of support groups if you can find time to do a search. The internet contains many a lifeline. Maybe you should highlight a few that might help you out in a pinch.

There are so many little things that can make a difference for both you and your parents. Anything that can help them remain self sufficient is worth whatever time and money it may cost. It’s hard to give up independence. (Remember how hard you worked to get it in the first place?)

But the worst thing about growing old is the loneliness. When all you have in your day is time, it is difficult to find others to share it. Ask anyone who’s done door-to-door sales about how talkative most of the home bound elderly are when approached. I’ve always found them interesting, and remarkably knowledgeable. But they live in a different time zone—one that does not punch a clock or need to meet a deadline.

Isolation makes pain more wrenching, it can changes perspective in many ways. Do not take lightly the rituals or self imposed scheduling that your parents may demand to keep. These things can help them stay grounded and in control of their own lives. They are important to them, and that matters.

So do what you can for them. Turn your garage into an apartment for them, if you’re able. Change the door knobs to lever-type handles. Make sure they have a self propelled cleaning aids (vacuum, dishwashers, wheeled garbage cans, etc). Encourage them to get out to senior citizens events, to participate in church events, to meet people, to visit with the grandbabies. In the midst of your busy schedule, try to hear them out. Maybe have a weekly game night or picnics. Make time for just visiting with them. If they didn’t do it for you when you were growing up, then now’s your chance to catch up. Believe me, these will be the memories that you will cherish later.

If they live too far away and cannot be relocated, seek out agencies and churches that can help or recommend nursing communities. Stay in contact with them and your parents. Believe it or not, email has turned into quite a blessing for the aged. After we set my mom up with an email account and messaging, we taught her how to use them, and she was able to drop in and talk to us at any time. A whole world opened up, and was not that expensive. Even computer games can be fun, and there are craft sites, medical site, the world was at her fingertips on the web.

Now, for the elders: allow me to remind you that you invested a good part of your life instilling values onto your offspring. This should be your payoff. They can now act as extensions of your body. If your mind is slipping, they will try to help you keep up. They will remind you, prod you, fill out paperwork for you (there is no greater show of love than that—believe Me.), and you should not confuse this with disrespect. Do not lash out at them in your rage against a failing body. It’s nobody’s fault. Time takes us all, sooner or later. What you teach them now, will definitely be remembered when their time comes.

I’m in my 50’s now and every day I get up wondering what body part will fall off next. If life has taught me anything, it is that stress only hastens the deterioration.

If your limbs are cantankerous, your loved ones will help you walk, procure tools to safeguard your way, they will push or roll or heft you to wherever you need to be taken…or they will try to. Don’t blame them for this. Help them. They are doing for you exactly what you did for them when they started out. So don’t forget to say please and thank you, just like you taught them to.

If you are feeling helpless and a bother, if you think you have nothing left to offer them but bills and pain, slap yourself in the face a couple and times and listen up. Life is hard for everybody, and perspective is everything—always has been. If someone loves you enough to care for you, then you should respect them enough to allow it and appreciate it.

Never forget that real love allows people to cry together. Once that has been done, everybody can get on with facing things together. It is important to communicate, not just talk. Forever can end tomorrow, but time just keeps going on.

The blame game is what children do. Adults learn to handle responsibility, and then we reap what we have sown and have to fix it or endure it. Life is hard, but it’s not over until it’s over, so don’t waste it.

There are so many scenarios that can play out when dealing with the aged. It’s difficult to address the topic thoroughly. Please feel free to add any tips, websites, or suggestions in the comments section below. We’re all in this together, and every little bit helps.

Til next time,
Mary Andrews

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