Getting older and perhaps living to an old age can be a problem. The recent posting(‘Cousin Bev’)which quoted from the website, parentswish, sees the problem from the point of view of the elderly. But there may also be acute and stressful problems for the families who are now responsible for them. These blogs are a way of expressing and exploring what it is like to grow older and an attempt to understand and manage the process. But that doesn’t mean that we are insensitive to our children, who now may have to be our carers as once we were their’s.
I saw an article the other day headlined ‘When Your Parents Live For Ever’, which is also the title of a book written by the author, Lavinia Cohn-Sherbok and her husband Dan. They themselves are now nearly sixty, and for the last fourteen years have cared for parents surviving into their nineties. Dan’s parents, living in his native U.S.A, suffered from debility and illness and their last years in residential care were unhappy ones.
Lavinia’s mother is 92 and in a good residential home where she is happy but which charges more than £1,000 a week.
Faced with the complexities and expense of looking after older people, the Cohn-Sherboks have devised ten ‘commandments’, which they say have helped them to cope with their own responsibilities. Here they are.
1. Respect your parents’ independence as long as you can so that they can preserve as much of their old life as possible.
2. Try not to quarrel with the rest of the family. They are your allies.
3. Try not to feel guilty. Whatever you do will never be enough.
4. Don’t depend on a future inheritance. The cost of geriatric care is phenomenal.
5. Try to establish a good relationship with your parents’ carers.
6. Try to be guided by your sense of duty.
7. Try to be realistic about your feelings.
Allow yourself to be angry.
8. Try to be patient with your parents’ disabilities.
9. Try to forgive the past, which may not be easy.
10. Accept that you cannot do more than your best.
Adapting to changed relationships in families is a major challenge all of us face, and it can involve a lot of reflection about the past and recognition of how things are now. Perhaps these ten suggestions (rather than commandments), could help ageing parents as well as their grown up children, for in their different ways each meet a situation which is undesirable to both.