Aging Alongside Our Parents

Zenobia Silas-Carson

I am always reading. Something is always catching my eye, and now that I lead many senior groups, my voracious reading habits have doubled. I am always hunting up new resources and activities that will enhance the adventure of this season of life, so when I came across an article about seniors aging alongside their parents, I was floored!

This article was about a seventy-five-year-old woman who takes care of her ninety-nine-year-old mother! Of all the senior caregiving scenarios I have looked up or cooked up in my head, this one somehow escaped my notice. I was instantly intrigued.

Firstly, I was not thrilled with the subtitle the younger woman had chosen. It said, “We did not think she would live this long”. “How dare she say that?” I thought, but upon examining my own self-righteous thoughts, my initial ones were just about level with hers. I mean, how many of us in our seventies still have our parents?

I am sure there are more than we can shake a stick at, but they are hidden in the outskirts of senior life. They are limping along in a state of shock. Not that they want their parents to die to give them a break and allow them to be seniors without the extra burden of buying double of everything. I am trying for humor, here and probably failing, but I was thinking, “Right Mom, on my way to the store for denture cleaner and incontinence stuff for the two of us”.

The woman who wrote the article was looking forward to retirement. She planned to work in her garden, travel a little and reminisce on her youth. Instead, she is now escorting her mother to various medical appointments, bathing her, making her meals and dealing with her mothers’ increasing cognitive impairment.

What I deemed as rare really is not. As we see ourselves ( the new “old” crowd) living longer, so are many in the twenty or thirty year older than ourselves group.  While we are heralding the days of Woodstock and humming the sounds of the seventies, our aging parents are singing the songs of World War ll, remembering the lyrics better than we remember ours.

It is real, everyone. Some might think the solution is to register our aging parents into a nursing home and go live our lives, but many cannot bring themselves to do this.

I sent the article to a friend of mine who is seventy-two and her mother is eighty-five. With quick figuring, we know her mother gave birth to her at thirteen years of age. Every circumstance is different.  My friend’s mother belongs to the society where all the women wear hats of a certain color, and she even drove with her friends all the way from Louisiana to Las Vegas just a year ago. She has been active and adventurous all of her life, so her age was locked away in a vault of denial on the part of my friend. Now, there is a “suddenly” and it involves impaired thinking, vision, memory and more and the vault has to be opened in order to explore the “what next” as it pertains to her mother.

If you know of any seniors who are aging “along with” their parents, or if you have the gift of still having them with you, please remember there is help to be found. You might want to look locally for immediate help in your area. Nearly every city and state have respite care groups, support groups, geriatric care managers and more to assist you and allow you to live your life and not feel guilty.

It is not easy to have your aging parents at home with us to care for when we have our own physical and emotional aging challenges, but I believe it is worthwhile to do so. It is, however, not for everyone! If you have children of your own, they might be facing the same dilemma. Just food for thought!

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