Things that won't happen: aging parent edition

Apr 13 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

You will not see: take your aging, demented parent to work day. Or: Aging, Demented Parent Room at the gym, so you can exercise while someone else watches your parent. Or: Company/University Picnic or Christmas Party with !Special Activities! for aging, demented parents. Or: Aging, Demented Parent Care at your professional meeting, so if you have to bring your aging demented parent with you, you can attend some sessions.

Aging, demented parents have many of the same social and psychological issues as young children. Toilet issues. Inability to deal with hunger issues. Lack of executive function, self-control, and easy frustration. But aging, whether demented or not, parents are seldom as endearing as small children. Other people's demented parents are orders of magnitude less charming than other people's children. We live in a society that often warehouses our elderly. The quality of that warehouse is directly proportional to resources. At the bottom, they are called "Medicaid Mills" and meet "legal standards", but are horrific in any societal sense. They may be better than living by oneself, eating cat food, with no cleaning, personal or household, available. They may be better than taken into the woods, or out on the mountain, and left to die in the elements.

Some mornings I wake up missing my parents, who my mother used to be. Other mornings I wake up either furious or despairing of the burden I have in caring for her. And my burden is not particularly heavy, compared to others. I want to meet the children of my trainees and my colleagues. I rejoice in their families. But I do not kid myself: no one wants to meet my very sad, aging, demented mother.

3 responses so far

  • lucy4eng says:

    Uff, so right! My father had dementia and we took care of him at home. Sibling and I stayed at home with my mother to be able to do this, plus a caregiver while everyone was working. We found it less stressful than a nursing home (we tried a pretty expensive one...and no matter what, they are not as invested as you are), plus my mother is a nurse, so that helped a ton. The high moments were once when he suddenly recognized me and he was himself for 30s. And seeing that no matter what, at some subconscious level, he recognized my mother's voice as special and was happier to follow what she said. However, it is tough, isolating and soul crunching to see a parent go this way. They are still alive, but you already mourn them. But you still mourn them when they pass away. So it is painful all the way through. Especially when, as you say, no one wants to be around. We had close family stop coming to our house...because they felt depressed visiting...no shit! Imagine how we were!

    And caregivers have a ton of emotional stress: sadness, anger, frustration, depression. The first thing the doctor told us was to take care of ourselves too. No matter what good structure you put around you: good financials, external caregivers, etc. it is a huge emotional drain. I lost a ton of hair that grew back months after he passed away, and I cried most morning driving to work the last year, because that was the only alone time I had where I could vent.

    So hang in there. Now that several years have gone by, I have the peace of mind of having loved and taken care of my dad and sticked by his side. And that is the only thing that matters. Society makes it difficult: taking care of a demented parent is not sexy, should not be mentioned, much less instagrammed. That is the problem: it is something that you do in the privacy of your house. That is the best volunteering work, and the most invisible one. Some of that close family that never showed up loves to go on international trips for volunteering...because it is cuter, less emotionally draining and you can show off about it.

  • I-75 Scientist says:

    I've appreciated your writing on this, it is very moving. My in-laws are visiting for the moment, both are almost 80. My FIL has had a couple traumatic accidents in life, and with aging, I think we're seeing the onset of dementia, and many of the above behaviors are clearly present. We're closing on a new house this week. The hardest part of finding it was making sure there would be room for them to live, and get around as well as our 4 kids. I'm holding out hope it he doesn't worsen too badly, but recognize that being the best off of my wife's siblings a lot may fall to us. And running around with the youngest, and FIL this week I feel the same way sometimes. Its not a entirely heavy burden yet, extra cooking and cleaning right now, but wouldn't be right to not take it.

    • potnia theron says:

      It is a burden, no question. But, you need to consider other alternatives.

      People with dementia only get worse. Having them someplace (like assisted living) when they are still cognizant of surroundings makes a big difference as they lose that mentation. There comes a point (where my mother is now) when near 24 hour care is required: changing diapers, feedings, lifting in and out of wheelchair. Moving them from where they have been to a new place when they are confused is absolutely horrible. I hate the warehousing, but sometimes a dedicated facility is the best solution.

      Balancing your life, your childrens' lives with aging parents is a long deep heartache.

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