My mother is 85, and she still drives and lives alone.
When people see her they say “she never changes.” She took care of me when I went through two bouts of cancer, one in 2012 and the other in 2016. In short, Mom is in excellent shape for her age.
But lately, she’s been moving a bit slower and seeming more like the octogenarian that she is.
At first, I was dismayed by the fact that she was slowing down. The idea that she seemed more elderly and less “middle-aged” scared me. I feared that what would come soon was her death.
But this was only catastrophizing. She was simply moving into a new stage of her life. In this period, she would need more help, but who knows, she could live for fifteen or so more years. Longevity runs in our family. Her grandmother was born in 1883 and lived to be 102. Gram even maintained an apartment until she was 100.
Living with aging parents happens to everyone, if you’re lucky. The alternative, of course, is death.
Below are several ways that I am dealing with the fact that my mother is aging and that our roles are switching; I’m becoming the caregiver, and she’s becoming the one cared for.
Accept her as she is
You can’t fight nature. At some point, you have to admit that your parent is elderly and just can’t do the things she used to do. Going up and down stairs is difficult for her. Carrying groceries, near impossible. Negotiating a department store, disorienting.
You need to acknowledge these truths. If you don’t learn to accept your parent as she now is, you will be very unhappy. And so will your parent.
Embrace your new role as assistant
Get used to the idea that you will be doing much more for your parent. But have fun in the process! Go shoe shopping. Take your mom (or dad or both) out to lunch. Clean her house. You are the number one helper. Don’t let her down.
Don’t mourn what is lost
Don’t get stuck in the past. Rejoice in who your parent is now. She is wise. She is a priceless being.
Stay in touch
Call and/or visit often. She needs you now more than ever.
Don’t look worried
I discovered these words of wisdom from my mother. Apparently, I was looking at her with worry in my eyes. Would she fall? Would she get deathly ill? She picked up on this and said, “Don’t look worried.” So I put a smile on my face. I did it for her.
Your parent doesn’t want someone who is fearful. She desires happiness in her life. And she deserves to get it. Be joyful.
Don’t forget to reserve time for yourself
Taking care of her is important, but taking care of yourself is, too. Just because she is getting older doesn’t mean you can’t have a life. You need a break, even if it is for a couple hours a day. Get someone to come in to spell you. Respite is now a word to remember.
Learn something new
Caring for your aging parent is a new experience. Learn something from it. In fact, learn many things from the journey. The biggest thing you’ll learn is how to love in a deeper, fuller way.
As Bob Dylan sings, “The times, they are a-changin.”
Best to change with the times.