Caring for Your Aging Parents: How Do You Cope?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
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For many, caring for an aging parent is not an issue, but for others it's an all too familiar scenario. With life expectancy on the rise, caring for an aging parent(s) will, in all reality, be a likelihood for a number of us. And I am no exception. For the past 3 years, my husband and I have been caring for his aging parents--age 83 and 88. Their care has become a major part of our lives, especially this past year as both have experienced a major decline in their health.

Three years ago after shuttling our daughter off to college, my husband and I were looking forward to having some empty-nest time--time to spend together. However, those plans have been put on hold for the time being. With his parents advancing age and declining health, coupled with the stress and financial obligations of maintaining a home, they made the decision to sell their home and move closer to us.

So less than 3 months after sending our daughter off, my in-laws sold their home of 55 years. It was a tough transition to leave a place they called home for so many years and to leave life-long friends to move to what might as well have been a foreign country. Fortunately, we were able to find a nice independent living retirement community not too far from our home that fit well within their budget. Being able to bring many of their belongings from their home helped ease some of the anxiety that was to be expected.

The challenges of caring for aging parents can become quite stressful, particularly when one is trying to juggle family life, work, and household duties on top of everything else that life throws our way. So how does one cope with the demands caring for aging parents?

Below is a list of ideas my husband and I have come up with to help make caring for an aging parent just a little easier.

  • Keep Communication Open-Communication is an essential part of this process. Emotions can run quite high on both sides as the adult children assume more of the 'parental role' and parents acquiesce to their adult children, but not always without some resistance.

  • Keep a schedule-Each month I write their doctor appointments and other important appointments on a calendar that hangs in their kitchen for them to see and to help keep life a little less chaotic for all of us.

  • If you can, go with your parents to their doctors, or at least have someone else accompany them.-While I have spent more time in doctor's offices this past year than I have in my whole life, being at their appointments has helped me develop an open relationship with their doctors so that I have a better understanding as to their treatment plans. I discovered early on when they would go to their doctors on their own, more times than not, they did not quite understand the reasons for certain treatments which required me to call the office to get the full picture regarding their treatment.

  • Offer a shoulder to lean on- For the past six months or so, not a month has gone by when the loss of a friend isn't a part of their conversation. The loss of a friend, both old and new, can leave many elderly people quite depressed. Allow your parents to share their loss and grief with you.

  • It's OK to take time away-To say the transition has been smooth sailing would be far from the truth. Conflicts have been a part of the journey and knowing when to pull back is key. Learning to put up boundaries is a huge benefit. Being up front and telling my in-laws that we cannot be there every weekend has been a huge stress reliever for me and my husband.

  • Allow others to help-As I mentioned earlier, my in-laws live in a community with other retirees, many of whom still drive.Thankfully, their neighbors and friends have been more than willing to take my in-laws on quick errands or to pick up something at the market that they may need before our next trip to the grocery store.

    As with everything else in life, many obstacles can be met if we go in with a plan, have open communication and most importantly understanding. This is not to say conflict and emotions will not be a part of the journey, but for me being able to discuss my concerns with others has helped me cope with a situation many of us will certainly face at least once in our life.

    Do you care for aging parents? If so, what are some ideas you have come up with to make the transition easier?

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    Really related to this. We're kind of odd ducks in that we married late in life so our child is still a preteen. Husband's dad died 10+ years ago at the age of 93, and his mom is now 85 years old and in declining health. We moved her from her home for 53+ years across the state border up closer, first to an Independent Living Center and now in her own apartment. Meanwhile my parents split up about 15 years ago, my mom remarried, step-dad died 2 years ago at age 73 or so? and my mom is almost 70 now. She lives about 30 minutes drive from us and so far is living in her (HUGE) home next door to my stepbrother, and so far is in good health (but we've had ongoing medical situations with her over the past 15 years too.). So life is a continual plate-spinning act, running man-to-man defense at times taking care of one or the other's parent and trying to co-parent our child... It truly "takes a village....". - 7/21/2010   4:50:37 PM
    My husband and I are encouraging my aging parents to move in with us. They live a long distance from us (a plane ride). My mom is looking forward to it, but my dad (age 82) has heard horror stories about it turning into disaster - moving only to have to move out later with a lot of hurt feelings. Is there a website or blog or book with success stories that I could show to him? - 6/30/2010   9:34:38 PM
  • 107
    Great Blog..Many of us are at the age/stage of taking care of our parents. I too am taking care of my mother who will be 90 years old this year. I consider myself very very lucky that she is good health (no meds), but she has difficulties with getting around (Osteoporosis in both knees) so walking requires a cane and assistance, she's also legally blind in one eye. I admire my mom's will and determination to do things on her own, (she still manages to climb the stairs in her brownstone each day on her own and simple excises she's learned in her yoga classes).
    Wish I had the list in the blog at an earlier time. It did take some time for me to realize all that needed to be done. What has made it possible is the support and help of a family friend and cousin...we've learned together as each of us has similar responsibilities for family members, (and I do have a bit of outside help). Most importantly when caring for you elderly loved ones is that you go with them to their doctorís appointments (caregiver if you canít attend). You are their voice...You are the one to ask questions and relate concerns related to medication and tests that doctors are prescribing.
    This experience has also taught me what I might need to do ahead of time as I get older. It is a hard time for all of us but you will get through it. I keep in mind all that my mother has done for me and now it's my time to do for her.
    I would add three items to the list -
    1. Make sure to go over your parents financial set up - what bills to pay for them. Their social security payments etc. Have your name on their checking /savings /portfolio accounts so you don't have to worry about deposits or withdrawals, ( I give my mom a monthly summary and go over it with her).
    2. Make sure there is an updated will and power of attorney (if needed).
    3. This one is hard - Talk abut funeral aggrangements ahead of time - what would they like to take place.(try not to make it an overly serious conversation).
    To All...Hang in there!! - 2/15/2010   4:18:16 PM
  • 106
    I've just moved back home to help to care for my father. He is 62 years old, a Vietnam Veteran, and worked all his life in construction. In May of this year, he had a stroke that left him with severe aphasia, a distinct inability to find words like 'hand' or 'bed' or 'car'.
    Back around Xmas he got a scratch on one toe. Tiny little mark, not even as big as a pencil eraser.
    January 30th he had a below-the-knee amputation of his left leg.
    Mom had a stroke when I was about 13, left her a little 'touched in the head' sometimes. (attention span of a sand gnat. unable to cook because she leaves food on the stove and wanders off to watch tv, not allowed to drive at all, stuff like that). For the past 16 years, dads been the one taking care of her, with my brother and I going and doing what we can. Now I'm the full-time caregiver to both.
    With this I left behind a job and my apartment, and moved home with them. It can be very, very rough. I'm 30 years old, a computer programmer and night owl, with a penchant for loud music. I hated this house growing up, but now as an adult I can view it with realistic eyes (not the overly dramatic ones of a 15 year old that thinks the world hates her and is doing everything on purpose) Its a huge change for me.
    I wake up around 10am (used to be around 2pm) daily. I fix lunch for them both, and help dad get up, showered, dressed and moved into the living room. I take mom shopping if she needs to go, or I go try to finish packing my stuff for storage if not. I'm here for Dr appts (I'm the one that explains whats going on, gives them the list of side effects things are causing, tells how hes adjusting or how her meds are doing for her, depending on who's dr we are seeing that day)
    We do have nurses for PT (to keep him moving, with the hope of a prosthetic leg in the near future) OT (teaching how to dress, shower, and basically live with one leg for now, and with muscles that go wonky at weird times), skilled nursing (to check the recent surgery, make sure no bruises, cuts, scrapes or sores go unattended) and unskilled nursing (hes 200lbs, 6ft tall, im 6in shorter, and limited use of one arm. Helping him shower alone, doesnt work well).
    I was in a car wreck myself about 8 years ago, so have limited mobility as far as walking or standing, and using my right arm.
    I cope as best I can, when it all gets too much, I grab a walkietalkie (in case anything happens) and disappear. I go play with the dog or cat, go for a walk, (its the middle of the woods. Beautiful now, oh how I hated the solitude growing up) go write, listen to music, or play on the computer. Anything for a little while to center myself and not let it all get too much, but ofc I am still able to be reached if its an emergency.
    Yoga helps, also meditation. Morning and night I set aside at least a few minutes, before they wake up or after they go to sleep. The fact that I LOVE cooking and they both don't anymore is also nice. Means being alone in the kitchen to fix food.
    Sorry for the long post, my one failing is being a bit longwinded in typing. =)
    As our parents generation grows older, there will be more and more people taking care of aging parents, and there will always be the ones taking care of other loved ones in their golden years. I hope anyone else going through anything even remotely similar can see the comments posted on this blog and know they're not alone. - 2/5/2010   10:44:00 PM
  • 105
    BettyBay -- i'm so sorry to read of your troubles and it seems to be more than one person should bear. Will pray for blessings for you. - 1/31/2010   3:02:47 PM
  • 104
    THX nancy -- a great topic and one I live daily. I would also add Keep a Sense of Humor as a bullet point. What an education we get as we perform this loving service for our parents, and realize that someday someone will do so for us. Aging is something that happens to all of us and as we lose stamina and memory it's good to acknowledge those things and laugh with each other about it. We've had some funny and precious moments along with all of the frustrations. Thanks for introducing a relevant topic. - 1/31/2010   2:57:44 PM
  • 103
    I helped my mom take care of her mom the last 2 years she lived. She was livining with my parents and died in their home. She had lung cancer and a few other problems, it was a very slow & painfull time for all of us. Then I took care of my fathers parents part time from 1983till their time was up. I started while they lived in their own home, then we moved them into my parents house, (about 14 months after my grams died) we also had a couple of day time helpers, one was their daughter, but my mom did from 7pm-7am every nite till they passed. My grandmother had alzhimer(sp) for 10 years before passing away. She went from walking, take care of herself, her husband & house to being in the fetal position, tight fisted, and no talking the last three years before dieing in my parents home. My grandpa's last 6/7 years he went from perfectly healthy to haveing heart problems which he had 3 or 4 surgeries, burning half his body with 3rd degree burns which was a mess to take care of, liver cancer which was 2 more surgeries, and a few minor problems. He died 4 years after his wife. Mom & I were the main caregivers in the end. While my grandparents were going thru all this living upstairs at my parents my dad had Lou Geriks disease which put us thru that much more. My mom slept in the dining room for 7 years while dad had the TV room. Once he needed more equipment to keep going we moved him into the living room & mom took his room. Which she still lives in now. After my grandparents died mom moved up to have some privacy, but now she's 78 & can't do steps. Last june (09) she fell & broke some bones in her back & herniated disc in lower back. She also has lung problems & is on oxygen 24/7 for the last 2 years. When she came home I moved in with her giving up my life, my husband, 3 dogs, 6 cats, & 2 beautifull yards of gardens!! About 4 years ago the house next to us burned down when all was settled we bought the land & garage. Boy do I love to garden!! In september 09 she went in the hospital with pnemonia and lots of back pain, oct she went back in for 2 weeks then to rehab for 18 days to build up her strenght, and get her walking again with a walker. When she came home I came back to living here. Last year I got to go home for a few hours 4-6 days a week, but in november I started staying 24/7. Once she came home we have had one problem after another. She fell & ripped her arm open in 7 places some very deep needing meds & cleaning 3x's a day, then rashes all over her body, some were shingles, that was fun! Cleaning her 3x's a day & reapplying meds over 2/3rds of her body. She still has rashes on her legs which is one med, then a different kind on her chest, back & arms, psorisis (sp) on her head/scalp which is 2 shampoo treatments one is every other day & the other we leave on for 20 mins then wash out. Oh Fun Fun Fun!! Since she was in & out of the hospital 3 x's we do have visiting nurses who come 2x's aweek & a bath lady on M, W, F's so I do have that much help. My husband has his own Neon shop so he takes us to the doctors, does our shopping & get our meds. My brother was supose to help but he hardly ever comes over. Dec he tried to do the shopping but he buys the wrong brands or can't fnd it. Plus if it's not on the list he doesn't buy it. My husband has been doing it for years so he knows all the ropes, & gets her treats. He did put up the outside lights for christmas but cancelled christmas dinner & gifts with the 3 of us, How nice of Him!! Course his family of 5 got dinner & gifts, and her mom & 2sister. He did come for 20 min one nite to let me go home to my family for the evening. He was supose to stay for 3 hours!! Now it's a Big Joke that I have date nite with my husband on fridays! Out of 8 weeks I have made it home 3 times! I turned 50 in sept. I have dercums disease, 3 bad disc in my lower back, ( was supose to have surgery but my husband wont let me) carpal tunnel in both wrist, in 2000 I was hospitalized for my heart, in 2001 I had a stent put in, exactly one year later, ruined xmas both years! And I have COPD & a few little things. Was in a car accident in 91 which left me in bad shape, my rt foot turns inward since I rode the brakes for 2 blocks before finally stopping, I broke my tail bone, have a closed head injury, & injured my neck. 2 weeks ago I drop a sock, bent to pick it up then couldn't stand back all the way. So I'm using the wheel chair to get around, mom has her walker and no one in my family gives a hoot or is helping us in any way. Some days we only get 2 meals, wash is behind mom can't get to it & it's hard for me. My husband came the first 3 days & stayed with us helping in every way possible but he does have a shop to run. Right now were trying the best we can, but being with each other 24/7 & both of us in so much pain we tend to fight over such stupid things. Both of our backs are so bad everything has to be done in small steps. Mom yells God help me, Jesus help me, over & over & over every time she walks or tries to do anything it's FUN!! My prayers and best wishs go out to all who are here in the same shape!! I have been taking care of sick & dieing family members for 28 years now! When is it my turn to be taken care of?? Since God took 4 of my babies & the doctors killed the twin of one of them, I am childless so I have no one to care for me as I get older & sicker. - 1/28/2010   5:17:55 PM
  • LOUISE253
    Great article. I live with my 91 year old mother who is amazing. There are days, however, when I want to tear my hair out. :) The way I cope at those times is to think of all the years she looked after ME when I was a baby or young child, all the support she gave me over the many many years when it must have been very difficult and she no doubt would have liked to tear HER hair out. I feel honored to be able to give back a little and realize that never with all my time does it equal what she sacrificed all her life for me. Then I think ahead and wonder what will I be like at 91 (if I even make it that far!!). Both of those help me as does taking long walks and deep breaths. - 1/25/2010   10:33:13 AM
  • 101
    Great article Nancy. I do care for both my parents who live about 30 miles away. Dad is 88yrs old, Mom 84 yrs old suffers from dementia. I have 2 older brothers. All 3 of us work together as a team taking care of my parents which includes making repairs to the house, completing inside and outside chores or whatever needs to be done to help them maintain their independence.

    All of us are listed as Power of Attorney and Durable Health Living Will. This makes it much easier for trips to the doctors and hospital. We all take turns running both of them to their doc and lab appts. Also keep a list of meds, dosage and when taken on your person, in your glove box as well as a copy in a manila folder in their house to quickly grab it in case you had to call the ambulance and they need the information.

    I would suggest to contact the local Office of Aging to see if your parent/s might be eligible for personal attendant services. Someone who could come to the home to perform housekeeping, meal preparation, bathing, grocery shopping, etc. The goal is to help individuals maintain their independent in the home instead of having to go to a nursing home. Services I would suspect is dependent upon each state funding. Don't be afraid to ask what services are available. Sometimes it's under Community Home Based Services for the Elderly. Check it out.
    We have installed several monitoring systems to alert us when my mother is up and about. She wanders at night. There are many assistive home modifications available on the market. Telephone ringers so pple can hear the phone ring.

    I've been blessed to be part of a close knit family where my brothers and I do whatever it takes to keep our parents at home. It is my father's wish to keep my mother home for as long as possible. My brothers and I have set up a schedule of taking turns staying overnight so my Dad can get rest at night. We have been fortunate that they were eligible to have a personal attendant come help with housecleaning, laundry and bathing my mother for 35 hours a week. My father makes the meals, etc. and we do the rest.

    It is challenging particularly when you have a chronic disease yourself. The real issue for me is not so much as the physical demands (although it is exhausting but I can handle it) is trying not to 'let' my mind go to that space of 'losing' my real Mom since the disease has taken over her mind. But that's life even if it's not fair.

    I don't regret taking care of my parents. I retired from work to take care of them. I'm thankful to be able to appreciate them even more in their elder years.
    Lots of stories to hear; lots more lessons to learn and much more love to receive and give. - 12/29/2009   12:23:04 PM
  • 100
    My mother died when I was a Senior in high school at age 58 from a heart attack (she smoked) and my father had a heart attack at 75 when I was 25 and so I didn't have to take care of parents. I will NEVER be a burden to my children, that is for sure. - 12/14/2009   9:48:59 AM
  • JOJO8296
    great article, i can relate. my dad died this past june and i was his caregiver for the past year, he had a heart attack. my mom passed away four years ago from cancer and i was glad that i had returned home five months before she died. you learn a lot about yourself when you have to do something like this and hopefully it turns you into a better person; you also learn a lot about your parents that you did not know before. it is hearbreaking but also rewarding when you look back and see that you did the best you could and you can go to sleep with a clear concience, and remember karma, do to others what you would like them to do to you - 11/28/2009   12:26:38 AM
  • 98
    My 89-year-old mother is still trying to live on her own. For the last 5 years, I visited her every other weekend, buying groceries, cooking, helping her with housework. For the last 3 and a half months I have spent 3 days a week at her house. My husband and I live 3 hours away from her. His mother is as old as mine and he helps her as well. We both retired this year and expected to spend more time together. Instead, we are spending more time apart. Our children occasionally spend time with our mothers, but they live in other towns and our busy with their own lives. Despite the help of my husband's sister and my brother, I often feel overwhelmed. - 11/21/2009   9:08:47 PM
  • 97
    I know this is a little late to comment but...I have been busy with my elderly (87) Mom! It is great to read everyone's comments and realize Bobby and I aren't the only ones in this situation. It is very stressful and time consuming. I have 4 sisters but I live the closest and have a fairly flexible schedule since I own my own business so I am the primary caregiver. One sister comes once a week to grocery shop for her (even tho she still needs something most other days I am there!) and one other does help when she can but travels a lot. So it is up to me to do the doctors and other things. One other suggestion I have is Bobby and I typed up the medicines and surgeries and allergies for my Mom and laminated it into a note card size to carry in her wallet. I had her in the ER the other day as she fell in her kitchen (I was out jogging so the medic alert people couldn't get me-I was promptly reprimanded by mom for not being available!) and the ambulance took her. I think I will copy another card to carry myself as I noticed she is starting to not remember where she put it. But Nancy you are right. Take time for yourself once in a while (but don't go jogging with out your cell phone..ha, ha). Also, don't hesitate to ask for help once in a while. Every so often my sisters trail off on helping out and I just gently suggest to them that I need a little more help. Luckily they are always good about picking up the slack once in a while. When my mom gets a little testy I just remind myself what she had to go thru to raise 5 little girls and that she is just getting frustrated sometimes. It's all just a part of life. Thanks again Nancy for this article! Anne - 11/20/2009   4:54:29 PM
  • 96
    I lost my mother this August. I moved her into our home after she had a major stroke. She was my best friend and taught me the meaning of unconditional love. I was honored to be able to take care of her. I spent my days with her sharing her last days. I took her to doctor's appointments, and when her health continued to decline spent days and nights in the hospital with her so she was not alone. Now that she has passed away I'm lost and feel like I'm just drifting without a real purpose. I still go through all the motions, housework, shopping, laundry, I homeschool my grandson, but I just feel so overwhelmed and empty without her. Seeing other daughters and their mothers brings the tears. Enjoy each opportunity to tell your parents how much they mean to you while you still can. - 11/17/2009   2:03:46 AM
  • 95
    It was an interesting article and thank you for sharing. Both of my parents lived to be 74 years old before they passed away. But 10 years apart and Mom just passed away in this Sept. - 11/17/2009   12:01:36 AM
  • 94
    I can be empathetic with most of you with parents in their later years. My mom turned 70 in September. My stepdad also died in September from a short illness from cancer. He had lung cancer that metastisize to his brain. My mom thinks I should give up my apartment and my job and my friends here in Houston and come running to her with open arms or she thinks my brother who is very happily married in West Virginia and has a good job should transfer down to Louisiana to meet her every beck and call. Well, if it sounds like I am angry and just might be. My parents divorced when I was 3. My mother made no effort to make contact with my aunts and uncle from that side of the family when I was younger. She made sure that I couldn't see my dad because there was no visitation in the original divorce decree. She taught me all sorts of trash about my dad. I met my dad when I was 40 and have had contact with him over the years. He is not the person my mother said he was. My dad will be 70 tomorrow.

    Beckyi - 11/16/2009   11:35:56 PM
    My husband's parents thankfully decided to go to a multi-tiered retirement community WHILE THEY WERE STILL ACTIVE AND MOBILE. What a blessing for them and for us! They made lots of friends since they were so active, took part in many of the community's activities and thoroughly enjoyed their lives. My Father-in-law went through all the stages: independent living, assisted living, and full-time care before passing away. Fortunately my mother-in-law is still quite active and in good shape.

    My husband and I are definitely going to find a similar community for us, and take their recommendation to move while we are still active. We don't have children of our own, so we can't depend on others. But even if we did, we saw the great lives my in-laws had and we cannot think of a better plan! - 11/16/2009   10:57:35 PM
  • 92
    nancy, what a great topic and so true. anne and i talk about this all the time, her mom is still in her home as our my parents. we find ourselves being parents of the parents, the handyman, the taxi, etc. they both live very close which is good and bad in so many ways. we know that it will only become worse as the years go so we make sure we do have time to ourselves, time away, and recruit others to help. we believe this is the most import thing to keep our sanity so if anyone is just hitting this time of your life please remember you have a life also.
    thanks nancy!! - 11/16/2009   8:49:51 PM
  • 91
    Nancy, as if I didn't respect a lot already; I do that much more now. With my dad gone there is no one there to keep tabs on my mom. Thank goodness we've got her into an apartment around the corner, but that's still not in the same dwelling. Having to take care of ailing parents can't be an easy task, but I'm sure you're doing your best.

    As always, best wishes. - 11/16/2009   8:35:59 PM
  • 90
    Thank you, Nancy, for a great blog.
    I had the blessing of taking care of my Mom for 3 years when she became very ill, had multiple strokes, and her mind was pretty much shot. I got her healthy again, and had a tight relationshipu.
    I had a Great-Aunt Mame that I got to visit in the nursing home during my grade school and high school years. I would stop by after school, and sing and play piano for her and her friends. She loved it, and so did I. She was a delight- until she just got too sick and in pain. She had a pretty crappy time of dieing- she wanted to go, but the nursing home wouldn't let her. She tried refusing food, but they force fed her. She is one of the main reasons that I have had a Living Will since I was about age 30.
    Know what you want- be clear, be kind to the people who are taking care of you! - 11/16/2009   8:27:30 PM
  • 89
    It is the most difficult thing I ever had to do (and still doing). I feel so sad for those that have no one to watch out for them. Very important article. Very good tips - caregivers must make time for themselves and reach out for help from family, friends and organizations. You are not alone. - 11/16/2009   8:14:51 PM
  • 88
    It sounds like hell and I'm not looking forward to it. I could say all sorts of things about my family here but I will bite my tongue. D: - 11/16/2009   7:30:43 PM
  • 87
    I was my mother's care-taker for over 15 years. It is not an easy task. I think the best piece of advice is take time for yourself, too. When I didn't I found that I could quickly become irritable and bitter, and I didn't like myself that way. Don't be afraid to say when something doesn't fit into your schedule. My mother was not the easiest woman to care for, and could be very demanding, but we found away to make it work. She lived in a retirement community for the last 8 years, and that made a world of difference for our relationship. For the last 3, she was in the assisted living section, and that actually allowed me to be a visitor and not just a "worker-bee" when I was there. I could go after school each day and visit with her, and not work my butt off to get her work done. I felt like our relationship was ten times better, and it made it easier when she passed away 9 years ago. My father had died when I was 29, so I never had the opportunity to care for him. Hard to believe that its been that long. - 11/16/2009   5:32:11 PM
  • JUDYK16
    I took care of my mom the last 5 years of her life. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's shortly after we moved from her home of 45 years to a new home in a new state. The only people we knew were my sister and her husband. The last 2 years were especially difficult when she physically got weaker and weaker and mentally more confused. Who knew you could forget what toilet paper was used for! I will be eternally grateful for the help I received from the medical community, The Alzheimer's Association and the caregivers who helped me out. - 11/16/2009   3:30:01 PM
  • 85
    When I corrected my Dad's age, in my comment, both comments are up there now, sorry, don't know why, or how to get rid of the one. - 11/16/2009   2:10:01 PM
  • 84
    I have never cared for aging parents. my fabulous Dad died in March, just shy of his 85th birthday. he wasn't in good health, but his death was unexpected. My Mom, is in her own home, is 82, and cooks, cleans, better than I do. She has just painted the whole house inside, pretty much single handed. I did help with living room ceiling, and wall paper in the breakfast nook. My fifty year old brother lives with her, so she is not alone. I'm quite happy with that situation. We don't worry about her being too lonely without my Dad. I do have a 102 year old grandmother who lives in a nursing home. she was as fit as a fiddle, until she was 96 yrs. old. She got dementia then, and couldn't take care of herself anymore. My hat's off to all of you, who do this job, day in and day out. So far, I've been very fortunate. - 11/16/2009   2:07:05 PM
  • 83
    I have never cared for aging parents. my fabulous Dad died in March, just shy of his 84th birthday. he wasn't in good health, but his death was unexpected. My Mom, is in her own home, is 82, and cooks, cleans, better than I do. She has just painted the whole house inside, pretty much single handed. I did help with living room ceiling, and wall paper in the breakfast nook. My fifty year old brother lives with her, so she is not alone. I'm quite happy with that situation. We don't worry about her being too lonely without my Dad. I do have a 102 year old grandmother who lives in a nursing home. she was as fit as a fiddle, until she was 96 yrs. old. She got dementia then, and couldn't take care of herself anymore. My hat's off to all of you, who do this job, day in and day out. So far, I've been very fortunate. - 11/16/2009   2:06:34 PM
  • 82
    I can certainly relate to much of what has been written here. My mother died almost 2 years ago of cancer at age 87, and left behind her husband of 67 years, my father, who went downhill quickly after her death. He is now 90, has dementia, and is currently in a wonderful facility, but as there is no other family in the area, complete responsibility falls on me. Unfortunately, both parents were very stubborn and absolutely refused to discuss their wishes with me, so I have been "winging it". It has taught me valuable lessons about putting my own affairs in order, and lessening the burden on those who will eventually care for me. - 11/16/2009   1:37:43 PM
    My mother is getting on in years and her health's declining, so my care responsibilities are definitely going to increase over time. It's stressful enough already, and I know things will get even more so as time goes on. Some of these suggestions I already do, but others I've never thought about. I will have to keep these in mind. - 11/16/2009   1:24:05 PM
  • 80
    Wow, this is a really hot topic. My grandparents have all passed now, and my husband's parents as well, but my parents are still relatively young (67) and in good health. I have three sibs, and we have talked about who will be our parents' primary caregiver, and who will offer occasional support and relief. I am amazed at all the sad and wonderful stories here in this blog. Thanks to everyone for sharing. We have our work cut out for us! - 11/16/2009   1:08:11 PM
  • 79
    My parents sold their home of 38 years and moved into my home 9 years ago before they got to the point they couldn't take care of them selves. That left them free of household worries to travel the states before my Dad became too ill to do it. Although it's tough at times, It's an experience I will never regret, and my one sister regrets she can't help and be here more.

    I think the first 3 tips are critical, with the number 1 tip "communicate!" needing to be stessed the most. This transition is at least as hard on the parents as it is on the child. For the 3rd tip, make sure if you can't go or get someone to go, your parents sign a consent form for the doctors to talk to you. Then at least if you have questions, you can call and they can fill you in.
    - 11/16/2009   12:48:59 PM
    My mother is one of the reasons I am overweight. She is and has always been mean, spiteful, belittling, manipulative and gifted at making comments that hurt to the marrow. I would eat to comfort myself rather than having it out with her. She is now widowed and in poor health. My siblings moved far away as soon as they could and refuse to be of any help to me as I have to deal with her now. My grown children refuse to be around their grandmother other than very short visits at holidays. My husband was the best at dealing with her and her outrageous demands but he has passed away.
    There is no way that I could have her move in with me. It is a mental health issue for myself. I do what I need to do and that is all. I do long for that sweet loving supportive "june cleaver" mother but accept that is not the reality of my life. - 11/16/2009   12:44:47 PM
  • 77
    We had the great privilege of looking after my MIL before she passed away. Now, her 75 yo sister has moved into a garage apartment DH built for her. She's widowed and childless, so we're all the family she has. She is still quite healthy and is actually filling her sister's role as great-grandmother to my grandchildren. No one could have predicted that she would want to live close to all of us, or that the kids would take to her like they have (or that she'd love it as much as she does), but we're all very grateful that she's here. No one wants to be "a burden" on their kids, but this is part of life. We're supposed to take care of each other! We're very fortunate that most of our kids live close to us and we all interact frequently, so the "burden"--such as it is--is light. - 11/16/2009   11:23:03 AM
  • 76
    Caring for my aging parents was one of the hardest things I have ever done. At times it was very emotionally draining. It is also something I will never regret doing. I am so glad that I was able to be there for them. - 11/16/2009   10:48:46 AM
  • 75
    What an important article. I had to care for an elderly aunt who never married and had no children. It was both heartbreaking and an experience that I feel fortunate to have had. Some of the best advice you gave is to ask for help. Often, others are willing to help but don't know what to do. Sometimes you just have to ask. Fortunately, my parents are still in good health and independent, but if and when they need me I'll be there for them, just like they have always been there for me. They have always been very concerned about their health and I guess that's rubbed off on me. That's one reason I'm so concerned about improving my health and trying to teach my children good habits. - 11/16/2009   9:01:21 AM
  • 74
    Thanks for this timely blog Nancy. Becoming your parents' parent is the hardest thing we have had to do (and we raised two boys!) - 11/16/2009   8:52:24 AM
  • 73
    I had both my mother and my mother-in-law to deal with. I did set up a schedule with my siblings for visit days each week - it helped but I was the one who carried the majority of the responsibility for my mother. It was because I was the one who had the most flexibility with my job. My mother-in-law was okay until her mind started to go and she started to blame me for a lot of things I didn't do. I just said to my husband: she is your mother, you look after her or I will have a nervous breakdown. He did - I helped but in the background. It was a crazy time with both of them and they are both gone now - I miss them but not the problems. - 11/16/2009   7:56:55 AM
    I took care of both my parents (lost my mother in May just shy of her 94th birthday), and although it changes your lifestyle, you do adjust and make the best of it, and for me it was a joy and I do not regret it and on my walk several times a week I stop at the grave and celebrate the wonderful life of both my mother and father. - 11/16/2009   7:02:49 AM
  • 71
    Wonderful blog, very touching and heartfelt. We can all relate to this situation. My dad turned 90 last month and my mom is 79. I am going to spend two weeks with them trying to give my brother and sister in law a short relief. Luckily my parents are doing okay and have no major health problems other than the usual ones that come with age. They are well cared for by my brother and his family. I am blessed, I don't have to worry about my parents all the time. - 11/15/2009   11:53:58 PM
  • 70
    I'm so glad I saw this post and all the comments. I feel alone sometimes, dealing with a 75 year old, legally blind, grumpy dad who also has end-stage renal failure. We moved my dad out to CA 5 years ago, 4 years after my mom died. My brothers are in Florida and Washington, so I'm pretty much on my own dealing with my dad, and since my dad hates my husband, I'm really on my own. Sigh.

    The boundary issue is important. We definitely needed to set some boundaries early on. I'm 42 years old and my dad still expects me to call him every day to let him know I got home safely from work. I indulge him in that if he promises not to complain to me about my husband. It's a struggle, but I'm pretty lucky that he's still fairly independent and he has the resources to get help with transportation so I don't have to be his shuttle service too.
    - 11/15/2009   11:47:42 PM
  • 69
    I'm having a hard time now, as my Mom is 88 and I see the start of dementia with her. We're having a role reversal, and that's pretty difficult. I wasn't brought up to be the one in charge of my Mom, but now I make all of her appointments, accompany her to them, remind her to take her meds and to eat properly. I call her several times a day to make sure she's not sleeping all day and staying up all night. But she insists everything is fine and there's NO WAY she's giving up her apartment for assisted living! - 11/15/2009   11:31:25 PM
  • 68
    When my dad was very ill and knew he was dying; he moved my mom and himself out to the same city I was in; so mom would be looked after once he was gone. We didn't know he was so ill and 2 days after he was diagnosed with cancer; he passed away. We thought he was going to get better and I knew it would be so hard for me to take care of my aging parents by myself; so I knew the only person who would be willing to help me; would be my exhusband. I actually asked my husband to come out to where I was; help me with my parents and to make it proper; remarried him! My dad passed away before I was remarried but since I had made the promise to my (ex)husband; I married him. So, together we do take care of my mom; although she is in her own place; we take her for appointments, and lots of 'outings' and I am making the promise to my dad to take care of her as long as she is alive. It is all worth it; for our parents took care of us for 18+ years (and for some of us..longer than that!) and never complained. That's the least we can do for them and it should be a privilege to do so. Many a time, I have ones saying how 'lucky' I am to have my mom and you know what? They are so right! She is a blessing and I love her to pieces, just as I did my dad when he was alive. - 11/15/2009   11:28:43 PM
  • 67
    I don't know what I would of done if my parents were still living today. - 11/15/2009   11:12:19 PM
  • 66
    I retired at the first opportunity (after 28 yrs of teaching) to care for my mother the last year of her life, for which I am eternally grateful.
    The experience turned into a retirement job- I have a private non-medical elder care business exactly for this very reason.
    Your numbers are legion.
    My 2 main clients right now are 95 and 97 yr old gentlemen and it is my pleasure to help care for them. - 11/15/2009   8:23:23 PM
  • 65
    I firmly believe that those who take on the task of direct caregiving to an elderly family member are truly Angels on Earth. Bless all of you who so selflessly give so much. - 11/15/2009   7:40:11 PM
    My sister and I started driving my parents to appointments out of our little town last year. We went to their house and helped my mother care for my father. He passed away in July, and we just went through two bouts of hospitalization with my mother. We learned to go into the doctors' offices with them, as they frequently didn't hear or remember what the doctor told them. We look in on Mom in the morning and at night to make sure she takes the right pills at the right time. It's the circle of life, the parent becomes the child. I dearly love my parents, and would do whatever I had to to keep them safe and happy, but I don't wish this on my children. - 11/15/2009   6:35:21 PM
  • 63
    I Really needed to read this blog. Thank you and God bless you all for your examples and sacrifices. I have taken my 91 yr. old mother in 3 months ago, after her hospital stay that helped up all make the decision. We have more or less be prepared for this since my father died 12 yrs. ago at age 87. Mom was 75 and had stop driving for a while. The year dad died she was very lonely and we moved her into an apt. close by us. That has been they way for us all till my mothers last hosp. stay. What made it an easy decision was my husbands good attitude toward the elderly and really letting the final decision with some preparation be my mothers. She always thought she would be somewhat independent as we all do. But she already had been threw numerous health issues over the 12+ years, some being a pacemaker, lumpectomy for breast canser, hip replacement, lens implants were the major ones. Shes still mentally capable, but needs help with medications and keeping track of appointments as well as transportation. I do the cooking and laundry etc. This is still a life altering task and needs a lot of support. My husband, is it, God bless him. Although we too are seniors with some of our own health problems we thank God we are able to do this. After all we will all be there sooner or later. We hope we are a good example for our children and grandchildren too! - 11/15/2009   6:21:34 PM

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