If you are an adult child with ninetysomething parents, you are probably familiar with the drill. Like me you may receive phone calls from an elderly parent a couple of times each week, usually asking a question, describing a problem, or just expressing anxiety. Or you may hear from caregivers about a problem — a fall, an upset of some kind, or a medical problem. Worst case — you hear that your parent has been put in an ambulance and sent to the hospital.
In Who Am I to Decide How Long My Ninetysomething Mother Lives? adult child Robert Huber describes the challenges of assisting an adult parent who is fiercely independent and aware that the end of life is coming. In this Philadelphia Magazine article he explains how he considers potentially heartbreaking decisions about where she lives and what treatments she receives. After one emergency hospitalization, he reports, his mother contracted pneumonia and returned home with temporary psychosis. (Hospitals can be horrible for older elders.) Thus she was discharged with more problems than when she entered the hospital.
His mother could be alert and lucid and then not, he explains, and when he tries to get answers about end-of-live expectations, he is often confused or dissatisfied with her responses. Preparing, or at least being ready, for death is difficult.
Supporting an elderly parent is filled with poignant moments of love and caring, but also with sadness, fear, frustration, and indecision. To get a sense of how arduous the process can be, adult children with parents in their nineties should read Robert Huber’s article.