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Supporting one's parents

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran

So I'm now getting to an age where this matters somewhat... it's starting to come up in conversation. I'm 45, my mother is 68, my stepfather 80, my father 69. My mother is having to spend a lot of time and care on my stepfather - he is becoming rather forgetful and his hearing is not so good anymore.

If I look forward to what happened with my grandmother, she stayed at home until about 85 years old, and then deteriorated over 5 years or so in various homes for elderly care while my aunt looked after her finances and affairs. She died not so long ago when she was 91.

If my parents follow that pattern then I have about 10 years of doing my own thing before these various responsibilities will descend on me and I'll have to see if I can be somewhere reasonably close to them...

I was wondering if people in the community have any pointers for me in relation to aging parents?


  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    It's such a different thing to tackle in different countries. I can't offer any advice, my parents are in their 60s and doing quite well. I spent a lot of time with my grandma when she was declining, especially since we lived next door, and they were wonderful years. She really loved to talk about her memories and comparisons of the world when she was young compared to the one we live in now. She was very stubborn in asking for help with many things, but mostly just wanted someone to listen. My kids spent lots of time watching Gilligan's Island with her. She loved to cook, so we ate meals with her whenever she wanted. It was nice to have that time and those talks. There were also a lot of challenges because of her stubbornness and unwillingness to see doctors, to change her eating patterns and so on. With your patient, present nature I have no doubt you will do fine by your parents. Just don't forget to take care of yourself, too.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    My Mother became my Father's carer, because (a) he was 11 years older than she, and (b) they lived abroad.

    Now my Mother is 85, my father died in 2010, and she has returned to the UK, to the Town of his birth (I have seen the house where he was born; the local cemetery "houses" his relatives - parents, cousins, uncles and aunts). Now living in close proximity to her (closer, I confess, than I'd choose to be, for a large variety of reasons) it has fallen to me to be HER carer.
    Currently, she is recovering (well) from a Knee replacement operation. This has rendered her both immobile and dependent - 2 states which most definitely go against the grain and rub her up the wrong way.
    In my observation, I can see how frail she is, going mildly deaf, being a little forgetful and unsteady and wobbly on her feet at the best of times, let alone now.

    Such an existence is a reminder to her of her own fragility, and she resents it. Deeply.

    She has 3 older sisters, so longevity runs in the family. At this rate, all being fair and sound, she has a good decade ahead of her.

    It is worth noting - and remembering - that at this age, their mental acuity and faculties (devoid of any diagnosed medical cerebral issues, such as dementia, Alzheimer's, etc) are actually degrading naturally.

    This link illustrates the matter.

    Read the article, then scroll down and look closely at the chart on the Right. The volume of White matter is similar at the age of 80, to that of a 15-year-old. And who would give household responsibilities and important decisions to a teenager in the midst of puberty?!
    That's the mental level you'll be faced with, @kerome, once your close relatives reach that age. Worth keeping in mind that not only do they 'regress' mentally, they have a full life experience of having handled serious matters with ease and know-how - so such inabilities in their old age can leave them angry, resentful and frustrated. I should know!

    When the crapoola hits the rotating ventilator, remember this: Where they will be, so shall you.

    Be gentle with them.
    You'll ask the same of those who will eventually be charged with caring for YOU.

  • When caring for my mother I had to learn to accept the unexpected on a regular basis. That really sums it up. The medical profession is often clueless as well as being uncaring. Trust your inner light and follow its guidance.

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    As a possibility within this sometimes complex mix: To the extent (financially/psychologically) possible, consider adding a third party (social worker, home health aide, psychologist) to the chemistry of an aging parent and younger family member as care giver. Care givers are sometimes overburdened not just with the diminishing capacities of the one cared for but also -- and sometimes irrelevantly -- by the former relationship as mother/father and offspring. Issues that arise may have sound solutions, but a parent can see him or herself as the care giver of lifelong record and resist in ways that freight the issues and sidestep sensible solutions.

    A third voice -- injecting itself periodically -- can 1. take some of the burden off the care giver and 2. allow the one being cared for to gain another perspective.

    All of this can be dicey, but I think it is something worth considering. My mother had such a facilitator, someone she liked and listened to and who had the savvy relative to her various dwindlings. My mother was willing to listen to me, but with another friendly voice, she could assess without playing the parent/offspring card.

    Just thinking out loud.

    Best wishes.

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