Home > Miscellaneous > Watchful Waiting: Stuck In The Middle With An Aging Parent

Watchful Waiting: Stuck In The Middle With An Aging Parent

The process of family members observing the decline of a parent’s physical well being isn’t something that occurs overnight. It’s an evolution and although there is an abundance of information and resources out there that provide solutions for practical matters, it doesn’t make dealing with the emotional aspect any easier. As difficult as it is in its own right, unless you have a parent who dies suddenly or contracts a terminal illness that requires acute care in a hospital setting, you are bound to find yourself in the abyss of “watchful waiting.” This can turn into a long period of uncertainty dealing with intervention and assistance on practical issues and the emotional roller coaster ride that accompanies it.

I’m the middle child in the family and find myself in the position of not only attempting to provide support to my elder sibling, who because of geographical proximity has become our declining mother’s “caretaker” but also in the role of “buffer,” the one who has the “luxury” of addressing the emotional side. I admit it, since I’m not a psychologist or an expert on the subject; I’m going strictly on instincts and the miniscule bit of information out there that addresses this issue. And, it is an issue. How one must feel, and how they act out when they lose the ability to control their own life, is complex and painful. It’s not too difficult to figure out that denial plays a huge part, and emotions such as extreme sadness, anger and resentment can surface.

aging by *amhd on deviantART

For the children, it can be difficult to know when a parent’s decline in independence has become a serious problem. Keeping an eye on the deterioration of a parent’s activities of daily living — basic skills such as personal care and hygiene, mobility in the home, taking medications, eating and dressing, housekeeping, paying bills, doing yard work and scheduling appointments, but it’s even more difficult finding the time to address the emotional aspects. It very well may be impossible for one person to do it all. My husband and I recently paid a weekend visit to my mother, not just for the purpose of spending time with her, but also to give my “caretaker” sibling a break.

Although my mother verbalized her appreciation for “all the things” my sibling does for her, she also expressed a bit of denial about her even needing some of the services and features that have been set into place. She didn’t really think the installation of grab bars in her bathroom was something she needed, and said, “maybe when I get old” it might be helpful. Believe me; at this very point in time, the bars may very well prevent her from taking a fall. I decided at that moment it would serve no purpose in trying to reason or explain to her that she IS old, and her lack of mobility, balance and steadiness was obvious. Therefore, in order to keep her agreement to have them installed in place, I just agreed that it was an excellent idea.

Throughout the weekend, I listened to her lament the lost of her independence on many issues such as driving, managing her finances, etc. as I simultaneously agreed and disagreed with her take on the necessity of other practical “solutions” that are in place; home visits by a physical therapist, a medical alert system, a regimented prescription taking system, etc., etc. I guess caring for an elderly parent is a joint effort, and I’m okay with being the middleman.

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About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.

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