Well, I thought that, given the support of my two parents throughout my years of blog writing on As Our Parents Age, I would keep writing until the end of their lives. However, it was not to be. I found that I wanted to protect them and help them live their last years in private. Even when I wrote something that had nothing to do with my parents, at least one or two people would ask me if it was about them.
Now they are both gone. My mother passed away two years ago, and my father, a few months ago. Neither died of covid because they were fortunate to live in a place, Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC), that bent over backwards to keep everyone safe — residents and staff. Compared to many other long term care communities VMRC experienced a small number of deaths.
But now it is time to share on this blog, from my perspective, just what it was like helping to care and make decisions for two people in their 90s who were in their last years of life and most frustrated about the limits that the aging process set for them.
Over the next few weeks I will be writing a series of posts that explain what has occurred over the last few years, from just before their transition into assisted living until each of their deaths. It was challenging for me and extraordinarily difficult for them, but there is much to share and explain, and much that we share (I say we because I know my parents would support me in this endeavor) just might help other people understand more about what is happening during the last few years of their parents’ lives.
Throughout the transition from independent living into assisted care we were on a rollercoaster, experiencing one difficult issue and decision after another. From my parents’ perspective nothing needed to change. Married for 69 years, they were both in their 90s with various health issues — mother experiencing frequent falls and dad with substantial memory issues. Both forgot to take medications. Mom was dad’s anchor, and she spent most of her energy ensuring that dad did not feel awful about his deteriorating brain functioning, but she had little time for taking care of herself.
There were few happy times as we navigated the issues of the car, whether or not they would have caregivers in their home or go to assisted living, and, of course, explaining over and over why they needed to change anything at all about their lives.
My parents were educated, active people, passionate about helping others and making the world a better place. They loved book clubs, libraries, lectures, musical events, newspapers (remember newspapers?), working for candidates they believed in, and participating actively in church activities. They adored the wellness center that was located in the VMRC community.and so much a part of its life.
Until the end of their lives, they never quite got over the fact that they could not dash off and do many other the things they were accustomed to doing — my mom especially. And I continually bounced back and forth between doing that was needed and loving these two people so much that I wished I did not need to make some of the difficult decisions that were required. None of us was happy at that time.
The biggest challenge for me, the adult child? Feeling overwhelmed.
Thank you for this. I can see what the frustrations must have been for your parents who were indeed the active, socially conscious people you describe. And now we are that older generation who will have to make difficult decisions as we age. But life goes on and we can only pray that we too can leave the legacy of engagement and faith that your parents did.
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Thanks to you Fiona! Yes, my parents did everything right— documents, expressing their desires for late elder hood, telling me what to do. However, when push came to shove, it was so very hard for them. I hope I can navigate these same issues with less frustration. Time will tell.
Yes overwhelmed exactly describes the feeling of dealing with elderly parents especially in my case from a financial perspective.