Everyone’s parents age. For some of our elders, it’s a fairly straightforward process. For others it’s a pretty bumpy ride. All of them will need support no matter what the journey looks like. Whether you’re going to help on that journey is up to you. There are often reasons why you can’t; you just need to be honest with yourself as you make that decision. Saying yes is only part of the decision-making process.
Discerning your motivation for helping, before you embark on this journey will help you know how much care you’re willing to give. In some ways, the care required will be the same; it’s simply your motivation that is different. There are probably a rash of different reasons, but there are two principal reasons. You may find yourself somewhere in between these camps because of course few situations are completely black and white. They are, after all, people.
Your parents were wonderful people and wonderful parents. This is the joyous reason. It makes it all so much easier when the going gets overwhelming to be able to remember why you’re doing this work. It makes the time you spend together more precious and more fun. The connections are already formed and you’re going to be more affectionate and relaxed when your formerly always rational parent becomes more demanding and less able. At the end of their lives, you will feel good about the choices you made.
Your parents were either not particularly admirable human beings or adequate parents. You make the decision to accompany them on their journey because you feel that this is what will help you feel good about your choices at the end of your life. Keeping your decision firmly in mind will help you to be relaxed when this is challenging. Your expectations will not be overblown. It is interesting, however how things can change. You never know if a person who’s been miserable her entire life will, suddenly, upon getting the medicine she needs, become more personable. Or if your increasingly crotchety father will feel and act differently when he feels safe. Even if that doesn’t happen, if you’ve decided to be there, it’s OK – because you’ve chosen.
Being with your parents as they age is not something you want simply to stumble into. (Although the bad news is you will stumble plenty!) You want to choose the journey. Because quite frankly, it’s arduous, even when it’s wonderful. Their willingness and capabilities keep changing. Sometimes you can figure things out, sometimes you can’t. Sometimes the system provides you wonderful support and other times it fails you completely. It is inappropriate to have to wrench your attention from your parent to concentrate on getting stuff accomplished, but sometimes you just have to do that. Even the best situations are not tailor made for your personal journey.
So, you’re going to want to know why you’ve made the choices you’ve made and then you want to live into your choices. Being involved is great (especially if you remember to take a couple breaks!) You’re probably just the right person to do this work.