Aging Parents — Part 1

In the natural order of things, a parent cares for children when they can’t yet care for themselves.

Feeds and dresses them. Teaches them to read and reason. Serves as taxi driver, short order cook, housekeeping staff, entertainment committee, and kisser of boo-boos.

But what happens when the roles are reversed and the ‘child’ must care for the parent?

Men and women in my generation are fast learning that sometimes, all Hell breaks loose.

Children, after all, don’t especially mind having parents to lean on. But aging parents can become cranky when they suddenly find themselves dependent on others and wracked with pain.

When they become frail of body, unsteady of motion, and forgetful. When their car keys (and independence) are stripped away. When end-of-life questions are brought up by well-meaning loved ones.

And the ‘kids’ — generally sandwiched between caring for the elders, tending their own home and family, and working full time — become cranky, too. Stretched taut, fretful, mentally and physically exhausted, worried over making time for Mom and Dad and their needs.

Doctor appointments. Trips to the pharmacy. Grocery shopping.

Plant watering. Snow removal.


My mom still lives in the house we kids grew up in. It has three flights of stairs and frankly, is far too large for her.

She won’t consider moving, whether to a smaller apartment or assisted living.

Mom doesn’t drive. And since Dad has passed and my only sibling lives 750 miles away, Mom’s care falls on my shoulders.

Recently, Mom had some medical issues and was hospitalized for a few days.

She came home weaker than before.

And on a plethora of medications, all of which carry the possibility of side effects.

Like dizziness, fatigue, stomach upsets, constipation, heartburn….

Just what an older person needs, huh?

It goes without saying that I’m not medically trained. Nor am I a home health care aide, or whatever those folks are called who help the elderly.

Mom doesn’t want a “stranger” in the house taking over her cooking, bathing, housekeeping, or dressing, but she’s agreed to hire someone if she can find the right person.

I’ve gleaned some insights through this situation. Come back next time and see if you agree. Oh, and if you’ve been there, done that, I welcome your advice!

18 thoughts on “Aging Parents — Part 1

  1. This becomes such a difficult situation. It can worsen depending on how flexible the elderly are to accepting help from others to lessen the burden it can become when only one person is relied upon. I could say a lot about this situation but don’t want to put it in this comment section.

    • I totally understand, Suzi. Thank you for your thoughts. You’re right — it’s a difficult situation. I’ve found that many elderly people have lost their flexibility — both of body and of spirit — and that’s sad. It makes it even more imperative that their ‘children’ assess their wishes early on and try to accommodate them — within reason and finances, of course. I’ll share more in Part 2 later this week.

  2. Debbie, thank you so much for sharing so openly and honestly about this topic because it’s one that, like Suzi shared, can be such a difficult situation for both the aging parent and the children. And for exactly the reasons you shared.

    “parents can become cranky when they suddenly find themselves dependent on others and wracked with pain.”

    You are so right about that because I remember when my mother became ill with cancer and had to give up her independence in certain things (like driving her car to go shopping), it frustrated her so much because it made her feel like she was weak and couldn’t take care of herself.

    For me it was frustrating and sad that I live in another state and couldn’t be there for her physically to help out. Luckily though, she had my brother (who lived with her) and friends there to help her a lot. I helped her emotionally through our talks on the phone everyday.

    I like your idea of perhaps having someone your mother feels comfortable with to come to her home and care for her because at least she will be in her own environment (home) and have familiar surroundings.

    I know this cannot be easy for your mother, you, and your family right now, so please know that I’m sharing much love and prayers in support.

    You take care, my friend!

    • Ron, your prayers and support mean the world to me! I know you’ve been through this with your mom, so you can appreciate how difficult it is. I guess it’s true what they say, Aging isn’t for sissies!

      My late dad did all the driving, so at least I don’t have to worry about taking Mom’s car keys away. She does love to grocery shop, though, and it’s been hard on her not getting out to do that.

      You’ve touched on what my next post talks about — siblings who don’t live near enough to tackle the day-to-day stuff. They might not have the immediate concerns of those handling the care taking, but they face challenges of their own.

      Have a wonderful Wednesday!

  3. This is tough. Thankfully, I haven’t been there yet (but I did see my parents go through it with my grandparents.) After my grandpa died, it was quickly apparent that my grandma couldn’t care for herself. Reluctantly, she moved in with my parents but never accepted it as “home.” Then, they had to tackle the awkward things, like telling her it wasn’t safe for her to be driving (that did not go well!) I do hope you are able to find a solution – a home aide would be great, if she could get on board with that.

    • Thanks for your concern, Janna. Yes, it would seem a home aide would be the best option. Mom tends to be a better patient with someone other than family! I truly feel for your parents, wanting to do the best thing for your grandma but hindered by her desire for independence. This is a situation much like bringing a new baby home — we want to do what’s best, but we just don’t have any instructions!

  4. O’ Debbie,
    seriously, I am terrified of my parents getting older. It’s a HUGE fear of mine. I want them to stay the same FOREVER & Ever & Ever. I want them to take care of ME!
    Love from MN, dearest. xx

    • Ah, Kim, you sound like my sis!! I’m realistic enough to know nothing ever stays the same, but I do wish aging weren’t so cruel. Then, again, perhaps I should just be glad I still have my mom, for many of my friends lost their parents much earlier and have been ‘orphans’ for years. Thanks for sympathizing, darling — love you more than a chocolate milk shake!!

  5. Oh Debbie – what a difficult task falls to you. It’s my fear to be a burden to my children. God bless you in your care taking and be sure to mix in self care as well.

    • Thanks for your kind thoughts, Barb. I definitely don’t want to be a burden to Domer when I get old. I think, knowing that, there are definite things I intend to do differently than my folks did — planning, for instance. None of us is guaranteed a single day (I know that sounds morbid, but it’s true), and if making choices now relieves my son of having to make them for me, well, that’s ideal, huh?!

    • Terri, from some of the things you’ve written, you’re probably MUCH better “qualified” to give advice than I am! I don’t guess any of us, muddling through the maze of caring for aging parents, really *knows* what to do. We do our best, hoping that it’s good enough. Thanks for your empathy!

  6. So hard for both you and your Mom. I’m sure you’ll both find a way to do your best for another during these difficult times. I have a good friend who is a Senior Living Expert and advises families going through this process. She isn’t associated with anyone so there is no sales pitch along with the consultation. Kind of therapy paired with real resources. She recently moved to Seattle but I wonder if anyone in your area does this sort of thing. She worked with a friends Mom and it was nothing short of amazing what they accomplished together and later with the family.
    Yes! Plan ahead ( i read up.) My parents have everything planned down to the crèmation party. And we talk about death and their wishes very openly. This is such a relief for their only child. I’ll do the same for Cole.
    Looking forward to part 2.

    • A cremation party?! Well, yes, I suppose it can be a party occasion, especially for the one who gets to leave, huh? Kudos on choosing practical parents (we don’t all get that option!). Daddy was a planner and left a letter in his desk as to his final wishes; Mama would prefer to stick her head in the sand and let us kids guess. Perhaps she doesn’t really want to address this next stage and figures whatever we decide will be fine. Who knows?

      I’ve never heard of a Senior Living Expert, but their website is quite informative. I’ll have to check and see if something like that exists downstate — thanks for the suggestion!

  7. I’m not sure when we “met”, but I think Mom probably had died by that time. I’m just not sure. In any event, after she moved down here to Texas, I was her caregiver for another few years. Let’s see… it probably was about six or seven years. Maybe eight, actually. I’m terrible with time.

    She lived to 93 and actually was pretty healthy, so she was able to stay in her own apartment. We were on the same floor, in different connected buildings, but it took me only 2-3 minutes to get down there if I needed to. You know — for an emergency, like she couldn’t remember how to work the tv remote. 😉

    There were a lot of experiences: a heart attack, an ICU psychosis, a broken ankle, a torn rotator cuff, a few TIAs, and shingles. She was a great worrier and fusser, so there was an anxiety attack or two. And, there was the day she locked me out of her apartment on Easter. That’s a story all in itself.

    The best advice I have is that should do what I learned to do, over and over. When things got too complex or too tough, I’d just say to myself, “I am the adult in this room.” And truth to tell, I was. There comes a time when we have to be the grownup, and lay down the law to our elders, especially when their judgment becomes so impaired they can’t make a good, solid decision. It’s not easy, but it’s one of the last steps of our growing up, I think.

    • Linda, you’re blessed to have had your mom live to the ripe age of 93! So many friends of mine lost their parents a long time ago and have been muddling through ever since. There’s something to be said for seniors who stick around and impart their wisdom for many years (not that we get a choice in the matter!)

      Thank you for sharing your experiences. My mom, too, is a worrier and prone to anxiety — the drama alone is w-a-a-y more than I bargained for, ha! I can’t say as she’s ever locked me out, but does turning the TV volume so high that I can’t think count??

      Very wise advice, my friend, and I thank you for pointing it out. Yes, we have to assume the role of the grownup, even when they fight us tooth and nail. I’ll have to remind myself often that it’s “one of the last steps of our growing up” and be grateful for the maturation process!

  8. Oh, Debbie, of course I read these posts backwards, but if your mother came back weaker from the hospital, at some point it becomes necessary for you to be making the decisions of whether she should stay in the house that’s too big for her. Consider this: I have a friend whose mother was living on her own still and one night she got out of bed to get something and didn’t bother to turn on a light. Halfway down the hall, she tripped and fell, and she couldn’t stand up. She spent 12 to 14 hours there, until someone checked on her. She’d broken her hip. It’s so scary what can happen. When do you think it’s time to start talking to Domer about what to do when you need help? I’m asking because I’m in a similar situation and I’m not sure.

    • I’ve seen those “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials, Monica, and I’ve read stories of older folks who have taken a dive (and usually wind up in a nursing home afterward). Those aren’t pretty pictures. I think it wouldn’t hurt to get one of those alert buttons that’s connected to 9-1-1 or something, especially for those living alone. Why, one never knows! I keep my cell phone on me most of the time, and it provides some comfort, but my late aunt had one of those button-things (not that it helped much when she finally went, but I guess it provided comfort for her kids). It’s a tricky topic, but one we all need to address. Good luck — and let me know what you decide!

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