Aging parents are a part of life, after all we all get older. The difficult thing about getting older is that things seem to start wearing out. All of us will reach a point where we can’t do what we used to, even to the point where we cannot take care of ourselves as we need to.
Watching a parent age can be very difficult but nothing is more difficult than the time in which you have to make the transition of stepping in to help your parent as they age.
I am in the that phase of life right now. My dad is 83 and he has to have 24-hour care and companionship due to Alzheimer’s Disease. Even if we were not dealing with this divesting disease, he would be reaching a time in life where he would need more help taking care of this home or even his health.
Here are 3 ways to gracefully handle this new phase of life:
Realize you are not experiencing a role reversal.
Many people refer to this time in life as a role reversal, you become the parent and your parent becomes the child. That is not true. You parent is still your parent and always be. They are just aging and are not able to do all the things they used to do for themselves.
As I have watched my dad’s disease progress I have been sure to keep our roles in the forefront of my mind. He is my dad in need of my help not a child. This has helped me stay present in the moment. Instead of trying to reteach something or reacting to a mistake he makes over and over again in frustration. I try to just take a deep breath and remind myself he can’t help it.
It can be divesting to your parent to find themselves in a place where they can’t do all the things they used to do so easily.
How you treat them will make all the difference in the world. No adult wants to be treated like a child! Though you might be doing things for your parent that you do for your children please remember this is the person who changed your diaper, taught you to walk and loved you through the teenage years. They are still your parent!
Always show honor to your parent.
Exodus 20:12 tells us to “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”
There is no expiration date on this command.
Though this time of transition is difficult always keep in mind you are to treat them with honor. There are so many changes happening in their life when you keep honor and respect as a part of your relationship it will make the changes easier to deal with.
As with all people, we need to treat our parents the same way we want to be treated.
As my family has faced the many changes brought about with age and disease I have always strived to keep the golden rule in mind. Someday I will be the one needing help. How would I want to be treated?
How would you feel if you were no longer allowed to drive and expected to give up your favorite activities? Look for other options. It might be time for your parent to stop driving but finding alternative transportation will be crucial to keeping them healthy.
My dad has always been very physically fit and he loves sports so when we reached the stage in his disease that the doctor said we needed to take away the keys I looked high and low to find someone to take over the part he could no longer do, drive.
He still loved participating in playing volleyball 3 times per week and work outing at the gym the other 3 days. He was able to continue playing volleyball for 3 more years and he still lifts weights at the gym 3 times per week. Needing more help in life meant he had to give up the keys but not the activities he loves so much.
Losing independence is difficult, treating your parent with honor will make it easier to accept.
Appreciate them for who they are right now as well as who they have been to you your whole life.
We hear it over and over again but there is a lot of truth in the statement, stay in the moment. Pooh has some wisdom to share in around this:
“What day is it?”
It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day,” said Pooh.”
― A.A. Milne
Staying in the moment with your parent can really help you emotionally deal with how much life has changed for you and your parent. Make each day together a favorite day.
We all love to have fun. No matter our age laughter is good medicine for the soul. Challenge yourself to find ways to have fun together.
As Dad became more limited in the things he could do we searched for other things he had enjoyed in the past. I remembered playing ping pong with him when I was little so we gave it a try. He loved it and was still really good. Soon we replace the formal living room with a ping pong table. It has been the source of tons of fun for us, as well as for the others caring for him.
All of us enjoy things we are good at much more than something that is a struggle. Keep searching to find the things that still bring joy to your parent, it will create the opportunity for new good memories.
Appreciating them in the moment will help you cherish the time you spend with them now as you know they will not always be here. Your time and support will mean more to your parent than you can imagine.
Watching our parents age is not easy no matter how you look at it. I hope you have found my 3 tips to gracefully help your parents as they age helpful.
If you are facing challenges with this transition in your life, coaching might be just what you need to handle it better. I would love to help. Please contact me and we can set up a time to visit and see if coaching is a good fit for you.
If you have additional tips or ideas to deal with aging parents I would love to have you share them below.
My entire life like most little girls I have always wanted to be a mommy. I never imagined I would be a mom of 2 precious children I never got to hold, cuddle, kiss or even have to discipline.
After my first marriage ended I was still hopeful I would remarry and have children. No I would not be the young mom I thought I would be but I never dreamed I would not be a mom someday.
Then it happened. Ron and I had been married over 2 years and I was finally pregnant. If you have struggled with infertility you know what the monthly rollercoaster ride is like. I didn’t even bother to take a test until I as a few weeks late. We were so excited! I was so sick.
It was an answered to many hours of prayers for sure.
Then it happened. Just the Friday before our fist doctor’s appointment, I started spotting. It wasn’t much so I was totally unprepared for the news that Monday.
As the nurse did the ultrasound she told us there were twins. But the look on her face was not one of joy, rather concern. Our first baby, Isaac, looked to have stop developing at a little less than 8 weeks. The second baby, Lillian, was much bigger, at least 10 weeks old but there was no movement. The doctor came in to confirm neither of them had made it.
I was in shock. My heart was shattered! How could this be happening? They were the answer to my prayers!
After losing the twins life went on and I did my best to trust God in this and wait for my chance to be a mom. The longer time went by and we still were not pregnant the more my heart crumbled. I had been through tough stuff before and always found God Good but this time I struggled.
How could God give me two babies and never let me hold them, play with them, or even celebrate their life? It felt cruel not good! I really struggled getting past it.
Thankfully I had a good friend who lead me to the lap of God and encouraged me to ask Him to understand. Our father always wants to talk to us and bring healing, we often just don’t know how to ask for it.
That day my Lord helped me to see His eternal perspective. He had answered my prayer. I am a mom. In my mind’s eye and in my heart He showed me my two beautiful children. They were on his lap laughing and happy. He reminded me that just because they did not grow up here on earth did not mean they didn’t exist; they just went on ahead.
They are waiting for me in heaven and we will spend eternity together.
That day I started to call them by name, Isaac & Lillian and I embraced motherhood. Mother’s Day has always been a difficult holiday for me. Between losing my mom to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis at 16 and the struggle of infertility and now miscarriage I would rather just sleep all day to be honest.
But now I have the vision of my mom, Isaac and Lillian all together in Heaven with my Lord and I praise my Great God for answered prayer.
Of course I would rather have had them live here with me first but I know that God is faithful, loving and good and I trust that eternity will be long enough!
Is there something that you have experienced that doesn’t make sense or goes against the character of God? Go to Him. Ask to understand, He will give you clarity around the situation if you ask with an open heart. People often stay stuck in the whys of hurts when clarity can help you move forward. Clarity gives us hope.
Being able to ask God what I needed to heal gave me clarity and brought healing I wasn’t even sure was possible.
When has God met you in a place that helped you find clarity?
Have you ever forgotten how much God loves you?
I recently struggled with this idea without even realizing it. I was avoiding sitting quiet with the Lord, I started focusing more on my checklist of things to do during my devotions than on my relationship with the Lord.
I know that I need to spend quiet time listening for the Lord’s voice to continue growing in my relationship with him but there are times that I find myself avoiding just what I know I need. Do you ever do that?
When I finally took the time to stop and ask the Lord what was going on He revealed to me a fear I had I did not even realize I had.
As a 16 year old I learned my mom was suffering from the horrible terminal illness called Alzheimer’s. At her young age we were told to expect the disease to run its course in 5 to 7 years. Mom lived 12 years but as many of you know Alzheimer’s steals a person’s memory and often their personality long before it takes their life.
I would say I was 19 when my mom stopped knowing my name and recognizing me as her daughter. Believe it or not so I did not grieve this loss much, I knew it was coming. There was so many other losses I think I just over looked much of it.
As a 36 year old my dad was diagnosed with the same horrific disease. Losing a parent is a very difficult life experience but watching them disappear in front of your face seems so unfair.
There has been much grief in the 10-year decline of my dad’s health. We are/were very close and it just seems impossible that I would lose him much less watch him fade away.
Needless to say processing the loss of different parts of my relationship with my dad has had to become common place. I think that is why is surprised me so much to realize how angry I was at God for letting this happen again.
But as God and I talked about my anger I found the root was even deeper than that, it was the fear that God would forget me.
Seeing that on paper seems silly but it wasn’t at all.
The people on this earth who made me and loved me first and probably more than anyone else couldn’t tell you my name. That hurt to my core.
If they could forget then God could too, right?
As I sat with the Lord crying and listening He reminded me of a couple of truths I was overlooking.
Though both my mom and dad reached a point in their lives that they did not know my name nor realize I was their daughter they both knew me in a way that brought them happiness and peace when I was/am around them.
My Mom was always happy to receive a hug from me, have me just sit by her side and listen to her music with her almost to the end of her life. This was not true of strangers, they made her nervous. She somehow knew me and loved having me with her.
God also reminded me of how my dad smiles really big or is playful and tries to hide each Thursday when I return to KC to take care of him for another weekend. It brings him joy when he sees me. Though he doesn’t have the words I can see the love when I look for it.
God promised us in Isaiah He would never forget His people. He brought this verse to my mind. Isaiah 49:15 “Can a women forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you! ESV
Maybe it wasn’t such a silly fear after all. God wrote these words to His people long ago. Maybe you haven’t experienced your parents forgetting who you are but you are feeling forgotten by God because of unanswered prayer or just life experiences.
Take comfort. He knows You. He Loves you. Turn to Him. Tell Him how you feel. Let Him whisper His loving words over you and show you what you are missing.
If you are struggling with seeing the Hope in the Middle of Your Stinky Life I would love to talk with you about how coaching with me might be just what you need. Contact Me
When did your mom become one of the smartest people you know? Isn’t it funny how when we were growing up it felt as if there was so much she just didn’t understand? When did you realize you were becoming just like her?
Transitioning into an adult can be challenging and complicated. I think one of the sweetest parts is when we are able to step back and think about how our parents influenced who you are today.
Since my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease when I was just 16 I have often thought of what I missed. Obviously, there are many things which we did not get to experience as mother and daughter.
Mom was never able to share dating or marriage advice. She didn’t get to beam with pride as the grandma of my sweet niece and nephew and tell us all about how they do things just like we did. We did not have the opportunity to walk this life as friends but she did teach me many things I am very thankful for. Here are just 5 of the lessons I learned from my amazing mom.
1. If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.
I know we have all heard this saying and I definitely grew up hearing it.
When my mom passed away I was so blessed to hear over and over again from people who knew her well that they never heard her say a bad thing about anyone. Not only did she teach me an important life skill but she lived it every day.
2. If you get it out, put it back when you are done.
Don’t you love it when you read something and you can hear the person who said it to you 1,000s of times saying it?
Mom taught me how to keep an orderly home and how much easier it is to find things when you put them away. I’m sure like all kids I did not always do a good job keeping things picked up but Mom never gave up training me.
3. Spend your money wisely.
Just because it seems like a good deal doesn’t mean it is.
I will never forget the summer when everyone was getting a pass to the swimming pool. I was so upset when Mom would not let me buy a pass. Instead she put the money in an envelope and had me take out the cost of getting into the pool each time I went. She assured me she would pay for additional visits if I went through my money in the envelope. Of course when the end of summer came there was money left in the envelope. I have not always spent my money wisely but practical her teaching has helped me to avoid many mistakes.
4. Always try your best, that is all anyone can expect.
Elementary school was no walk in the park for me. I had to work hard to get good grades. I will never forget how much my mom did to support me and help me. She always encouraged me to just do my best and that was good enough for her. You only fail when you stop trying. Thanks to mom I have faced many challenges in life with tenacity and found many successes after not giving up.
5. Reading can be fun.
My mom was a reader. I remember her enjoying books all the time. Since reading did not come easily for me I could never imagine wanting to read for fun. Now as an adult I’m just like my mom. I read for fun daily. I’m so thankful my mom enjoyed books and encouraged me to as well. Reading is not only a great way to learn new things but it also allows me to escape into different worlds.
Looking back it is always easier to see how smart our parents were/are. I wish I had had more time with my mom. She was an amazing lady who loved her family very much and taught me many valuable lessons. I am so thankful to have had her for a mom.
What lessons have you learned from your mom, now that you know how smart she really is?