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The Challenges of Aging Parents—When is it Time to Step in and Call Their Physicians?

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When I was little, if I scraped my knees, my Mom was at my side pretty quickly with some hugs and maybe even a Popsicle.

But if I was running a 102-degree fever and couldn’t keep anything down, chances were good that my Mom or Dad would call the pediatrician for an appointment.

Growing up, it just seemed like my parents (and especially my Mom) had an innate knowledge of when they could solve a problem for me and when it was time to call in for backup.

Fast forward a bit, and I’m an adult now too. I have a family of my own, and all of the wonderful responsibilities and business that goes along with it. My parents are both still alive, and although I’m not sure any of us want to admit this, they are getting up in years.

Recently, they have begun to talk more and more about their physical ailments with me. And sometimes they tell me things about their lives, thoughts, and feelings that concern me.

This has got me to thinking: like so many other people living in the “sandwich generation”, it is now my turn to decide when I can help my parents solve their problems and when it’s time to call in for backup. And I’m discovering that sometimes, this is really easier said than done.

Take for example my father, who told me that he was saddened by a close friend of his who recently acted very unkindly to him. I listened, let him get it all off his chest, and gave him a hug and cookie or two (he likes those better than Popsicles). The friend has since apologized and all is well so I think this situation is resolved for now.

But then you have my mother, who tends to fret endlessly about all sorts of things from her health to the health of others, her neighbors, and other things. She has always been a bit of a worrier, but when does it become too much?

And there have been several times lately when both of them have ventured into the “TMI” territory with me, often with my children present. I’ve read articles that state that disclosing inappropriate information can be a sign of dementia. But where do we draw the line?

I want my parents’ final years to be healthy and happy ones.

Add a Comment3 Comments

My mother recently moved in with us. Fortunately, though, she's in excellent health. However, there will come a day, I'm sure, when she will need some level of care, and I'm not sure how we're going to handle that.

September 4, 2009 - 5:00pm
EmpowHER Guest

There's a lot more to parent-care than most people realize. A health event is not the only time to step in. For example... Are they running out of money? Who will be there to help them in an emergency? Where do they keep their important papers? With a family of my own how can I be in two places at once?

Planning for the day we hope will never come can start right now.

Joy Loverde, author of The Complete Eldercare Planner (www.elderindustry.com)

September 4, 2009 - 5:42am
HERWriter Guide

Great post!

It's a tricky situation because as children, we don't know enough to care for ourselves. We have not yet become capable so it's pretty easy to look to someone else for help.

But when you are older, it may mean that the capabilities that you learned are now leaving you and this is not only physically difficult - it's emotionally devastating. No-one cares that a small child is in diapers and needs help with feeding, but a grown, older woman or man? Such an incomparable emotional impact.

I would also love to hear from others who have gone through this or who are about to.

Additionally, I wrote a short essay on EmpowHer called "Parenting your Parents: When to help your aging parent and when to back off and let them live as they see fit." and it can be read here: http://www.empowher.com/community/share/parenting-your-parent-when-help-your-aging-parent-and-when-back-and-let-them-live-th

August 21, 2009 - 1:12pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.