September 2011 | Newsletter archives
Our Aging Parents: Understanding new roles
Stop me if this sounds familiar. An older couple, in their early 80s, is on a diet because of high cholesterol, blood pressure and immune system problems. They have also had various other issues including lack of exercise and the possibility of heart disease. They know they need to be better about what they eat but they aren’t being better. They know they need to join a gym, but they’ve been walking the mall. Isn’t that good enough? Their daughter is on the phone with them constantly, asking questions, asking for updates, wanting to speak to the doctor if possible, telling her parents what kinds of questions they should ask, explaining how they can best stick to their diet; that physical therapy isn’t the same as working out. Even through the phone the daughter can hear the glazed look, can see them stop engaging in the conversation. They don’t want to be told what to do and how to live – understandably so since they’ve managed to live for eight decades – but if they want to change their future, they need to change their present.
They’re confused about their new diet. They’re thinking about joining a gym but they haven’t. Their new diet allows for one day each week for eating anything they want but they’re frequenting Polish restaurants and that’s not helping.
When they were visiting their daughter, the mother had no neck aches but now, suddenly, she can’t sleep and complains of severe aches. The idea of changing mattresses is addressed since they haven’t changed their mattress in some 40 years. Perhaps it’s just the pillow?
They are your parents and they live nearly 3000 miles away. You are powerless and yet completely in charge of helping keep them healthy and on track. As a child, you were at their mercy. Now, the parent has become the child, only the child is living far away and making unhealthy and in some cases bad decisions. What do you do?
I don’t have the answers but I know that as we get older and our parents are older still, roles flip. You may not become the parent to your parents but you do need to take on a more aggressive role in helping them navigate new and unfamiliar waters.
That’s what Our Aging Parents is all about. Navigation. Understanding our new roles in the parent-child-parent relationship. If we’re lucky enough to have our parents as we grow into our 40s and 50s, we will find ourselves in this unique position. It helps if we can navigate together.
Do you have an aging parents story? Share it with me; share it with us.
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