The Bittersweet Reality of Aging Parents
Midlife has been a swarm of extra responsibilities. My children are young adults with new needs and new questions. My husband has reached the ‘let’s play golf’ era. My parents are aging and not so graceful.
A huge struggle for me is the conflict with my parents. We butt heads about diagnoses, treatments, quality time, childcare, and so much more. A bittersweet sign that mum and dad are still difficult! I suppose the bickering is a nice reminder that we still have that parent-child relationship.
It’s so hard to essentially sit by and watch when my parents seem to need help but refuse to receive it. I feel the total weight of responsibility for what happens to them, but, at the same time, I cannot coerce them into anything, and they have control over their choices. At times like this, I remind myself that I am doing my best in a challenging situation.
Share out caring responsibilities whenever and wherever you can. It is not a betrayal to admit that caring for aging parents is mentally and physically draining. If you are fortunate enough to have other family members in the local area, explore opportunities to balance this responsibility. After all, it’s not just about you. Though they won’t admit it, I know my parents get bored of my company. There is less room to enjoy each other, and our relationship is now largely driven by a strict schedule of pills, vitamins, and assistance. Aging parents see you differently, as much as your perspective of them has changed. They may feel lonely, longing for a friend that doesn’t have access to their medical records. They may feel powerless as people come through you for status updates rather than humanizing them. They may feel guilty living in the small bedroom of your home and taking up too much space.
Reflecting on my own aging process, I realized how important it is to document the journey. I have a community of childhood friends who have hundreds of pictures of me and us throughout the years. My parents traveled the world taking pictures of the views but rarely themselves. I have seen it as my duty, my self-professed right, to document their lives in these later years.
Although caring for aging parents is challenging, it is a new opportunity to bond. We share stories of their spectacular travels, and I record their accounts. As their eyes light up and they remember old places and faces, it is beautiful to see my parents have their own sense of dignity. I receive their wisdom in the fluttering form of distant memories. As they breathe life back into their existence, I am reborn.
If friends or carers are around, I make sure I identify who is in the photograph and where it was taken. I’d like this archive to be passed down to the true herald of the digital generation. Who knows, they could even make us 4D one day. After all, humans are mortal, and photos are immortal!
Midlife is full of new responsibilities; my favorite is making my parents feel alive again.