by Cathy Propst
If you’re over the age of 40, chances are that you’ve heard a friend complain about his or her parents and/or children. It’s a well-known fact that, as we age, our relationships with our parents change drastically. Often times, our roles actually beome reversed! Recently, I asked a woman in her 80’s if she had any children. Her response made me laugh: “I used to have three daughters, now I have three mothers.” An older gentleman confided in me that his children were unhappy with his decision to remain in his home alone. He wondered if one day they would understand by “walking a mile in his shoes.”
It’s normal for children to worry about their parents as they age. A middle-aged woman once tearfully admitted to me that she would surely die before mother due to the stress associated with caring for her! Many children of elderly parents worry that their parents will fall and injure themselves or otherwise hurt themselves while living alone in their own homes.
While these are legitimate concerns, it doesn’t warrant treating our aging parents as if they were our children. While it’s normal for our roles to change, they do not have to be reversed. My advice?
Parents, remember this: You’ve been telling your children what to do their entire lives – why stop now? Tell them why you feel the way you do and give them reasons for the decisions you are now making. Tell them clearly, perhaps in writing, what your wishes would be should you become incapable of making decisions on your own, but assure them that, at least for now, you are capable of making your own decisions. Knowing
your wishes for the future may spare them the stress and heartache of wondering whether or not they did the right thing during that difficult time.
Children, remember that your parents have been making decisions and assuming risks for longer than you’ve been alive. Work toward understanding, honoring, and respecting their decisions, even if you don’t agree with them. Now you know how they have felt all these years! Next, talk to your parents. Tell them you need their help in navigating this part of life’s journey together. Finally, celebrate each other and the time you have together. You’ll cherish these memories for years.
Cathy Propst is an RN and the owner of Guilford Medical Supply in Greensboro, NC.