Caring for an aging parent puts life into perspective
I have suddenly come to the realization that I am part of an aging population. I turn 70 this year and frequently ask my lovely wife, Mary Jane, if she is sure that I’m not going to be 60. She responds every time with the same answer, “You are going to be 70. So quit asking and learn to live with it.”
I have been blessed in that I have had both of my parents until this past Thanksgiving week when my dad passed at age 91. He and my mother lived independently until he became ill just before the holiday.
I have two younger brothers, and we had no idea how difficult it would become to care for our mom in her home with dad gone. I don’t think any of us knew or understood how much our dad did to take care of her until he was no longer here. We were able, at first, to have a caregiver stay with mom during the day; however, it quickly became apparent that she needed 24-hour care and supervision. Fortunately, my nephew and his wife needed temporary housing when the shortage of construction materials delayed completion of their new home. It was a blessing to have Jake and Taylor there with her.
Mom was struggling physically and mentally, though, and in no time needed more care than we could provide. She fell multiple times during the night, ultimately suffering an injury that required a short hospital stay. Before long, we were faced with a challenging realization: it was no longer safe for mom to be in her home.
With limited options in front of us, we found an opening in an assisted living facility close to where mom and dad lived. If she couldn’t be home, at least she could be in the same community she was accustomed to. She is slowly adapting to the new environment and making new friends. However, she still asks about going home. It is heartbreaking, though I know it is the best option for her right now.
I’ve been there for others during times when they were handling how to care for their aging parents. And yet I never fully understood the emotional journey it would be until I was on that very journey myself. Watching someone you love and have looked up to experience a process of decline, turning the tables on who cares for who, is not for the faint of heart.
While I knew some semblance of this day would come at some point in my life, it still feels like it hit me like a ton of bricks. And I must admit that watching my mom and all that she has gone through since November has taught me some valuable lessons, the most important of which is to honor the gift of time. My moms story, one we will all go through in some way in our lifetime, reminds us all to make the most of every moment, if not for ourselves then for the people who raised us and who eventually will look to us to care for them.