Our parents are aging. Now what?

Caring for aging parents is quickly becoming the norm among many of my friends. Whenever I pick up the phone, someone’s mom needs surgery, someone’s father has suffered a stroke or someone else’s mom is moving into assisted living. As my friends and I fully enter middle age, our parents are rapidly aging and their health is declining. This begs the question, ‘Now what do we do?”

How are we all dealing with this? My dad died nearly two and a half years ago, and he was ill for a very long time. I dealt with it quietly, and with as much grace as I could muster – some days, I couldn’t muster much. He lived in Florida, and the brunt of his care and decision making was handled by my mom and younger brother. Miles and miles away. This was beyond frustrating as the weight of an ailing parent is magnified when they are far away, and many decisions that you want a say in need to be made on the phone.

It’s a challenge to accept that our parents, once vibrant and capable, are becoming vulnerable and need more than the care a spouse can provide.  We seem to be thrusted quickly into a different level of adulthood. One where we are not only in charge of our own households, but those of our parents. One where decision making is multi-faceted based on your ill parent’s needs, your well parent’s needs, their financial situation and the opinions on many in the family. It seems in the best case scenarios, when siblings are on board and everyone is focusing on the patient’s health and dignity, decisions seem to flow a bit more smoothly.

hand-2906456__480There comes a time while our parents age, that we need to accept that they are not here forever, and the older we (they) get, the more we live with them on borrowed time. We need to accept that soon we will have to embrace a new normal – either a life with a sick parent, or a life without them around. Acceptance first, then action.

Make a few more phone calls to your Mom or Dad. Spend more time with them, even if it interferes with your favorite time to marathon watch a new show. Don’t neglect yourself, just carve out a bit more time, just a bit. Forgive yourself if you need to, for not being in touch more throughout the years. Forgive your Dad for not coming to your son’s birthday party. Forgive your mother the small jabs she makes about your type A tendencies and see her for the loving, giving person she really is.  Forgive, forgive and move forward.

When we accept and act, we can move forward with a clearer head and an open heart to make the best decisions we can for the people that brought us into this lovely universe. Let’s do our very best to usher them into this last phase of their lives, with as much confidence and dignity as possible. For ourselves, and for them.

Do you find yourself caring for your aging parents? Please let me know how you are handling this change of life in the comments below.

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