Saturday, November 14, 2015

Aging parents

One of the reasons I choose to remain anonymous is so I can speak plainly about challenges we all face.  By remaining anonymous, I hope to be able to share more details while still respecting people's dignity.  More details make it more interesting.  More details increase the chances that it will help you, my readers.

Aging parents

One challenge most of us will face involves the dynamics of aging parents.  Adjustments must be made as they age.  The frequency and size of those adjustments increase as they get into their eighties and nineties.

My family had a pow-wow this evening.  Seven of the eight kids showed up.  The eighth kid is working second shift in a town seventy miles away.  He visited with Mom and Dad earlier and received an advanced preview.

Dad is scheduled for tests and some surgery over the next couple of weeks.  The outcome could be a yawner, or a lengthy recuperation, or an irreversible impairment.  God, time, his surgeon and his native constitution will determine the outcome.

A few of the more salient decisions:
  • Each kid will pick a day to be the "point person".  
    • On our day, we will drive Mom (and maybe Dad, if he is up to it) to Mass
    • We will bring them dinner
    • And we will clear the Dry Erase board
      • That might entail grocery shopping, dishes, laundry, house keeping....
      • That might entail transportation to docters visits or picking up meds
  • Mom and Dad will accumulate their needs by either writing on the Dry Erase board or by pasting sticky notes on the board.  They are most comfortable with paper and pen/pencil
  • We might escalate to taking a digital picture of the board and posting it on social media
    • The advantage of social media is that we can see their needs and it might be more convenient to integrate those tasks into other parts of our on the drive in to town. 
  • There was some concern about dehydration.  "Thirst" becomes less reliable as we age and become more sedentary.  Urine color works but only if one is drinking enough to produce urine. One solution was to place a set number of water bottles out with the expectation that they will all be consumed before bedtime.

 I read about single children tending to aging parents two thousand miles away.  My heart goes out to them. Most of my siblings live in the neighborhood where we were raised.  One lives seventy miles away.  I live 20 miles away.  The rest live on the near Westside.

I am blessed to be a member of such a large, strong family.  We are not perfect.  Like many families we competed for attention when younger and it is easy to drop back into that mode.  Also, ten people in a 1200 square foot house means that toes got stepped on, feelings were hurt, needs (OK, in retrospect they were wants, but they felt like needs at the time) unmet.  This evening we all became the adults our parents strove to raise.

Brothers and sisters, I salute you.


  1. Bless y'all for stepping up. It's unusual to see that level of cooperation.

  2. I had a worse experience with my aging parents. As they got older, my 4 siblings lived closer to them than I. However, quite often, I had to do things for them, as my sibs were too wrapped up in their lives to make the time.
    It was ok, I didn't mind. I was also the executor to their estate, a role I am still maintaining to this day, renting out properties, in order to pay down debt.
    I am the youngest of 5, with a twin, but my parents knew that by asking me to do it, the job would get done.
    My family likes to say we are close, but we don't communicate much. I think they are afraid I will ask for help with the estate.
    I am happy you still have your parents and that your family can be together at this time in their lives. My parents were extremely close. My mom died on April 15, 2012, and my dad passed on April 19, 2013. He just couldn't go on without her.

    1. I think you can take comfort in " parents knew that by asking me to do it, the job would get done."

      Things get very goofy when parents die. I have seen grandchildren swoop in and strip the sheets and blankets off the beds, pillage book shelves and keepsakes off the mantle and hutches.

      More often, the executor gets beat up for not selling the house for "top dollar". Kids do math in their heads, optimistic math, and are angry because they are waiting for their 1/3 cut of $360K. Then they feel robbed because the house sold for $300K and netted $270K after repairs.

      Giving the job of executor to one of your kids can tear a family apart. Mrs ERJ gets it all if I die first. If I am the last "spouse" alive, I am leaning toward having a professional do it. The only family members who will feel bruised by the loss of an additional 10% are the ones that deserve it.

      Thanks for writing.

  3. I have a high school friend who is a lawyer. he told me some stories years ago along the lines of stripping the bed sheets and such. even to the extent of taking light bulbs and rolls of toilet paper from hangers in bathrooms! it makes you wonder about the greed of some people. I have enough to get by, by the grace of God. That is all I need. I had to referee over who got my dad's golf clubs, because "He promised them to me!".
    It was discouraging, but then I would know that was indeed why my folks asked me to do it, and I did indeed take some comfort in it.
    My mom died of lung cancer, worked 'til 2 months before she passed at 79. My dad would get up and take her to the restaurant they used to own where she did food prep at 5:30 am have coffee with her while she worked, then go home and go back to bed. It was only 2 blocks. Then he would pick her up after work. She just couldn't stand cleaning her bathroom so many times a day, as she put it.
    You would see one of them in a store and immediately look for the other. They married when my mom was 19. My dad was 25. As I had said, my dad died one year and a couple days later. His mind was going, but he knew the date when it got there, and went down hill and was gone 4 days later. He was 89.
    I got my work ethic from my mom. I watched her nail pallets and crates in a mill from age 7 till 10 every summer vacation, by hand. I got my character from my dad. He was a man of his word and he was a man to give of himself to others. I miss them both. Until you lose your parents, I don't think you ever really feel like a grown up. You always feel like a kid, who can always run to your parents for comfort, and support. Now, I feel like a lonely child sometimes. I am glad I went up and helped out all those times. I would not trade the times I went just to sit and talk. I would never trade those memories for any amount of money. My dad taught me what is important in life and money never made the list.

  4. It's that time of year when outdoorsmen feel a certain giddy longing that they don't feel during the hot summer months. They can feel it coming on stronger like a quickening and can smell it in the crisp clean fall air. It's a feeling like no other.


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