When The Road We’re On Comes To An End
It’s reality that aging is terminal and none of us are immune. At some point our parents aren’t going to improve.
Unlike our children, our parents aren’t going to “grow-up”, become more independent and work us out of a job. They get weaker, forget more. Instead of milestones like tying their own shoes, they forget how to hold a spoon.
They have good days, and days we feel like tearing out our hair when they can’t remember how to turn on the TV, brush their teeth or flush the toilet. When they need reminders, we use “cueing” as hints, so they can stay as independent as possible.
“Your fork is on the left side of your plate.”
“Where do you put your hands when you are trying to get up from the chair?”
“What do you do next? What is the next step?”
Hearing loss combined with various forms of dementia is frustrating for us all. Tasks of daily living (ADL’s /Activities of Daily Living) that involve multiple steps become progressively harder.
Cognitive changes make decisions hard, so we limit choices. We initially reduced my mom’s choices to two, then none. Choices make her anxious because she truly can’t decide. Even “do you want orange or apple juice?” makes her fidget and say things like, “Well, I could have orange juice or apple juice. Maybe orange–or apple. Well, whatever is easiest, if you have it.”
Gradually we took on more responsibility and decision-making. My dad can’t
drive, pay bills or make medical decisions. It’s good to discuss this as soon as you can. Someone needs power of attorney for financial decisions, access to their bank accounts to pay bills and durable power of attorney for medical decisions. It is a process. We didn’t change everything overnight. Losing independence is painful. It’s hard for parents to let go and hard for adult children to reverse roles.
If your parent is seriously ill or elderly, start with a POLST. Work together with their doctor to fill one out. https://www.llyarborough.com/2017/07/06/emergency-prepared-parents-caregivers/
For finances we had help from a financial planner my parents trusted. My history as an RN made the medical part easier for my parents to accept. My parent’s long-term, good relationship with my husband gave them confidence to accept him as family bill-payer. Even so, there are times when they can’t remember, times when they don’t realize how much things cost and suspect we have somehow “made off” with their money or that we don’t have their best interests at heart.
My mom told her substitute caregiver last weekend, “You know I don’t have much time left.” The caregiver repeated it to me saying, she didn’t know how to respond. I think it was more upsetting to the caregiver than Mom. I wonder nearly every night when I put her to bed if this will be the last time I tell her goodnight, the last time I tuck her in bed. Yet I know anything can happen. She could still outlive me. These are things I don’t control.
It takes patience and grace, to navigate these tricky waters, to watch the parents who raised you become “the children”. I second-guess myself. “Is this really the best thing for them? Did I give the right advice?” It’s emotional. We haven’t been down this road before and can’t see the end. We do confidence in our faith. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in time of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid”( Psalm 46:1,2, The Bible). I find great comfort in knowing that even if I fail, God never will. I can trust him with my parents and with me.