Thursday, February 18, 2016

Life with an Aging Parent

This has been a post that I have thought about writing many times. 

I spent the day with her and decided today was the day.

Any advice I give is related to the dynamics of my relationship with my mom and all of it may not applicable to everyone.
We are complete opposites in personality, so that leads to challenges. We have both had to learn how to be back involved in so many of life’s decisions together.

The roles do change. You always hear that you become the parent and they become the child. That is kind of true, but I would say it is more of a leadership role that must be carefully played out. 
They don’t take well to being treated like a child. Most of us wouldn't take that too well.

I have found that if she in any way perceives me as being bossy or taking charge, she gets her dander up. She is not going to be told what to do AT ALL ---EVER. I have learned I have to be a little sly in that role. I am the leader and she knows without a doubt she needs me, but I have to give her choices and let her think things over before we come to a conclusion. This way she still feels like she has a say in what is going on in her life.

You have to take control without taking control. One of many examples is the driving. I am confident that Mama can drive in settings that she has done many times and there aren’t too many new things thrown at her. I am not comfortable with some of the things she comes up with though. She knows no limits. It would take far too long to tell you all the things she has done in life that makes me know she is fearless. You will have to just take my word on that one. 

Her latest one is she wants to drive to Dothan because my aunt has moved there. Are you kidding me? New territory ---I 10---not happening! I voiced concern, not an edict, and gave her time. She is now saying I can take her, she will stay a few days and my aunt can bring her back.
Now, that is a solution I can live with.

That leads me to the next piece as I will be taking her to Dothan at some point in the next few weeks.

You must be flexible with your time. I have shared before that I had retirement in my sights and she fell in a fluke accident, followed two months later by the cancer diagnosis for my step dad. Less than one year later from her fall, I had nursed her, spent most of my free time driving the roads to take care of them, planning and having my daughter’s dream wedding, and then burying my step dad. I tried to make sure I took care of each and every person in this period of time with the exception of myself.

It took me some time to get over my pity party. Life happens and you must adjust.
It wasn’t what I planned, but I am learning daily to quit trying to put life on a schedule, because I am glad to have her near me and she has been through a ton as well.
She has no one else to call on when things go wrong for her and she took good care of me when I was a child.

We as a family are learning to involve her in our activities. She was not around and now she is, so we have to be mindful to involve her in the things we are doing. It makes her feel needed. This is dinner, trips to the store, trips to the farm, etc. I have learned she does less driving if I go get her when I am out and about. Taking control without letting them know it!

They don’t like what is happening to their bodies and their minds. Most often they are aware of the changes in mind and body even if dementia or Alzheimer’s haven't set in yet.
I have watched and remembered exactly what my grandma (Mama’s mom) was like as dementia crept into her life. My husband’s mom had Alzheimer’s. That is one of the most horrible things to watch. Mama actually constantly worries that she is losing it and doesn’t want to be a burden. If she forgets anything she is beyond stressed about it. I am working on that with her. I am constantly reminding her she is fine and that forgetting things is ok, that I am here for her.
Her body is also slowing down and she is not handling that at all. I find that she complains a ton, which is not like her in the past. I have had to learn what is a real symptom and real concern or just her not realizing she can’t do everything she once did. Being cold is not a fever everyday and that some things are just aging issues.

I have had to learn that she will complain to me more than anyone else, just as anyone would do with the person they are most comfortable with. I have noticed she can be all down and whiny and her brother and sisters can come to visit and she is all happy and ready to go take on the world.

That took me awhile to see and not let her bring me down so much.

She had a live-in handy man with my step dad. She no longer has that, so I have had to learn to not get stressed over her dreams and can you do this and that all the time. I do what I can and remind her that she is blessed. She may or may not get a backsplash behind her stove anytime soon. At least she is looking forward.
Get a good calendar or notebook to keep up with not only your life but theirs too. This is where the child thing comes in. You have to have a calendar much like you did when you were running around during Little League.

I will not lie, she was wearing me down a year ago. I love her beyond words, but I had to learn I couldn't fix everything. I had to learn to manage our new life.

That is a bit of wisdom to date, and I am sure there will be more to come. Grieving and changes are a process. I am on a journey. We will have many more ups and downs along the way.

She did go out to eat with the ladies in the neighborhood last Friday. That is a huge win! 

Well, if you survived this post, I will be back to happier things soon. 


  1. Sandy I can relate to many of your suggestions. My own mom is very different from me and we tend to butt heads every now and then. My sisters live nearby and they are much better at doing just the things that you recommended. I try to remind myself that one day that will be ME.

    1. It will be us one day or at least we can hope we live that long. It is just me though, so I have had to adjust in order to survive:) We are doing better. Takes time!


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