This is the first post of a three part series by Deborah Roth Grabein. As part of National Family Caregiver Month, this guest post series will tell a story of what it is like caring for your parent. Deborah is my mother and has recently gone through the process of becoming the caregiver for her mother and father.
Earlier this year, my friend moved her parents from their home of many years to an assisted living facility in another state where she lives. Once they got settled, she sent her mom on a trip to visit a friend in another state. Laura’s dad had been ill and spent quite a bit of time in the hospital, in a rehabilitation hospital and then preparing for a return to his home. It had been a rough time for her mom and she needed a well-deserved break. Laura agreed to stay with her dad while her mom was gone.
One night, Laura cooked her dad’s favorite meal for dinner. He had been doing well and getting much stronger. While the move was difficult for her parents, she had handled all of the details. She worked with the movers and packers and decided only to move the furniture and furnishings that were most familiar to her parents. She thought that things would finally settle down a bit.
After a lovely dinner, he turned to her and said “Laura, this is so beautiful. I love our new house. But exactly where are we and why are we here?” She didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. It was at that moment that she realized she had crossed the line from being the child to being the parent – something that she was not at all prepared to do.
The aging process, while something that can be lovely and full of joy, can also bring innumerable challenges. Health issues become the priority, safety in the home requires changes that make parents unhappy, and often the child becomes the parent and in many cases, the caregiver. All of these roles bring about tremendous conflict for the child as well as the parent and create tension, heartache and difficulty.
While this time of life can be challenging, there are things that the family and caregiver can do to help minimize some of the difficulties as well as to help put a new perspective on the situation. In the next few weeks, we will explore what some of those things are and how they can help.