A few thoughts on elderly parents (part 2): Stuff about the elderly that is hard

Oct 25 2017 Published by under parents, Uncategorized

It's hard for us. It's hard for them. But: no one likes getting old. I'm not talking about embracing the I'm post-menopausal and not afraid of death old. I mean acknowledging that one is frail, and of diminished capacity in one way or another.

So: many elderly probably shouldn't be driving. Their vision is worse, in some cases their sense of space and distance is worse. But we live in a society where for many, if not most, people, not driving is not an option. You can't get a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk, let alone anything else, without getting into a car. Yes, there is uber and lyft and taxis and public transport. But have you tried those for everyday stuff? Not easy. What if you don't have a credit card? or a smart phone? Yes, we are scared to death they will hurt someone. And usually it's a bad car accident that makes them stop.

Many people refuse to plan for, or acknowledge, or really do anything about getting older. They all think: "It won't happen to me". This is part of the driving thing, but also doing laundry if your washer is in the basement. Its getting hearing aids and new glasses. Its figuring out the new interface that the bank, the credit card, the Social Security administration has online. All of this is hard, and its doubly hard if you didn't grow up with the technology or you still don't type (when I was in high school, typing was a girl's class). It's figuring out what to do when you computer isn't talking to the internet and you can't see the hardware.

It's forgetting that you left the kettle on, till it burns through, but you are too embarrassed to tell your kid, the one who lives near by, and its too hard to get to Walmart to buy a new one (because that's all you can afford) so you do without tea or coffee, because it's all so very very hard. But you miss the coffee and wonder how it got so bad.

I used to get so angry with my father who didn't like his hearing aids, and refused to wear them and then  couldn't understand a word I said about trying to make his computer talk to the internet (again).

We are angry because they live far away and don't want to leave what little of their life they have left. We are angry because they don't want to move some place where they will be safer, and probably happier. And then they get angry because who are we, their children, to tell them, the parents, how to live? We are angry because we want to help, and they don't want our help. They want to be left alone, thank you very much. And both sides often say: "and if you're going to be that way, just hang up now and stop bothering me".

But we love them, and try to remember how they, as best they could, supported us when we were difficult and unpleasant adolescents. So we call back and try to help, no matter how hard it is. And for those struggling right now, I say: I only wish I could have one more fight with my father or mother.

7 responses so far

  • Karen says:

    This is the truth. I'd give anything for another call from my dad about his stupid computer. I think a lot of us did try (and often succeeded) in stepping back from the aggravation, to remember that parents are only here for a precious limited time.
    And...we're all human, with deadlines, pressures and families, which is not an excuse. Just a reality to say we try so very hard and kick ourselves because we don't take time for what is important to them.

  • SUE says:

    My father died recently at the age of 95. He was living alone in his own home, and managing very well, thankyouverymuch. I live 800 miles away so couldn't keep a close eye on him. His hearing had gotten quite poor, so I had given up phoning him and just sent him email. He was pretty technologically savvy, but didn't want the internet in his house (he went to the library just about every day to use their computers).

    Well, this was all fine until he fell. He didn't hurt himself in the fall but he couldn't get up, and it was two days before anyone found him. He was alive but in pretty bad shape. He refused to wear hearing aids because he didn't like things in his ears; at one point the nursing home told me he had dementia. He didn't; he just couldn't hear.

    I wish I had been calling him every day; maybe he would have been found sooner. He was a tough old guy, and lived about 2.5 months after the fall, but two days on the floor had just left him with too many things wrong.

    Dunno if I have a real point here except to agree that it's hard. And if you know your parent can't hear, don't let them be diagnosed with dementia until the person doing the diagnosing has made sure they've been heard.

    • potnia theron says:

      The point? it helps to share these stories, dorky as they are. And hope it gives some insight to those still struggling with these issues.

  • Microscientist says:

    This so resonates. My Dad has been slowly losing his mobility, and has also been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. My Mom, who was a health care professional for her career, can help and they have been able to hire an aide for the weekdays. But it's really hard to hear on the phone that Mom feels like she literally can't leave the house except for when the aide is there. Why? Because Dad will go do something stupid like try to take a shower unattended and then fall down. Mom doesn't have the strength herself to get him back up, so they have to call 911 then.
    I live on the opposite coast from my parents. My brother is in the next town from them, but he has his own family and little kids. Additionally, he has absolutely no understanding of anything medical. So I get to hear all the medical issues from afar. It's just really hard, and there are times when I don't want to call them for fear of what I will hear.

  • respisci says:

    There is an excellent movie about young caregivers (teens and 20s) whose parents have Alzheimer's Disease. I was not a young caregiver with both of my elderly parents having dementia/AD but I find this movie shows the cognitive dissonance that happens in patients.
    I have had colleagues and friends check it out to help them get a better of idea of what it is like to live with someone with AD.

    Not safe for work unless you don't mind crying at your desk.


  • ecologist says:

    This is so right on. Both my parents (both now gone) went through this. It is so hard.

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