Very few people relish the idea of getting older. The losses one must deal with are certainly difficult: our bodies become less physically able to handle activities we once never even gave a second thought to performing (i.e., running up and down stairs); our minds seem to slow down; more and more of our friends and colleagues become seriously ill and/or pass away; and for most of us, watching our parents age is at the top of the list. It is so hard to see our parent’s age. Those once invincible, ageless parents of ours are now becoming more and more dependent on us for support – that’s certainly a role reversal for both. Yet there are a few simple ideas, that if acted upon, can make all the difference in our parent’s world, as well as ours, when it comes to coping with the aging process.
We tend to make our lives much more complicated than they need to be. Below are some ways to move forward in life with as little pain as possible:
Don’t fret over things you have no control over. People get sick and age – it is part of the life process. Instead of beating yourself up every day about how old your parents are getting, embrace the life they’ve lived and encourage them to be as active as possible while they are still with us.
Be involved in your parent’s lives. Do things for your parents. For example, I remember always being at my Dad’s house fixing one thing or another. When I moved away from home, not only did my Dad miss having those errands completed, but I missed doing them for him. When I moved back close to home to care for him, I once again began completing those tasks – it gave us both something to connect to each other with. Don’t under estimate the power of helping someone do something they can no longer do for themselves.
Forgive yourself and your parents for all those things that were never meant to be said or the times you put your needs before your parent’s needs and felt guilty about it.
Say that you love someone – don’t just assume they know how you feel. My dad was the typical big, gruff father, never expressing his emotions. Yet, as he aged and became more dependent, we both seemed to enjoy those exchanges of emotions (even though they were still somewhat rare), and it became simpler and more meaningful to say I love you every time we parted company for the day. You never know if those may be the last words you will ever hear from your mom or dad, or, the last time you have the chance to say to them that you love them.
Remember the old times and laugh out loud about silly things you both did in the course of your lives.
Make sure you make every effort to see and visit your parents and bring your children with you. If nothing else (and there are many other positive reasons for doing this), it will make you feel better about yourself.
Develop a well formed ability to be patient. If you have kids, you may have already done this step, yet I found that the patience we need for our parents is different than that which our kids require. Work on it, it’s important.
Develop a level of understanding of what your parents are experiencing – this is yet another way our parents teach us about life. The aging process is not just about those who are aging, but it is about those still growing. In this life, you never stop being a teacher or a parent. You are always teaching your kids (and others) how best to deal with what will eventually occur in their lives. Your parents, in one form or another, are still teaching you about what you will experience in your life. Listen and learn.
Understand that you will always miss your parents when they are gone. So, make the time now to develop as strong a relationship as possible. This relationship will be the basis for your memories of them when they have gone.
Coping with the aging of our parents is a life lesson – one which will be taught to us whether we want to learn it or not. So embrace the lesson. Make whatever time you have left with your parents as positive as possible. Laugh, remember, cry, but above all, show your parents that you love them. It is clearly the greatest gift we have to give each other.
Life is all about relationships!
If I may add a postscript here, I don’t remember who said it but “Don’t take life too serious, no one gets out alive!”
When are parents start to age they can take very divergent paths. Here are additional resources to help you.
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It has been wonderful to have the "angels" come in and take my mom out to lunch and other activities. My mom enjoys Patty and Maria and loves that they take her to do the things she enjoys, keeps her active and engaged. — Barbara, Arizona