They started their lives as newlyweds during or just after World War II. They worked hard to raise children and provide a good life in post war America. Some spouses died too early, other couples are celebrating fifty, sixty or even more years together. They are often referred to as the Greatest Generation, strong and independent. They are our parents.
Over the Labor Day weekend my husband and I were at a get together with friends when the conversation turned to the dilemma we all face with our aging parents. The parents are all in their eighties and nineties and without exception all have experienced an increase in frailty, falls, hospital stays and recuperation. As their children, we are trying to balance the care and safety of our elderly parents against their desire to remain in their homes. They, of course, only want to live in comfort and with dignity.
In my family, even after a serious stroke twenty years ago, we have kept the promise to my mother never to put her in a nursing home. But, the three sisters who live in the same city as my mom all have jobs, and must arrange work schedules to give my mother twenty-four hour a day care. My husband’s parents want to continue living in a large apartment with all the things they love around them. However, with some medical problems and no siblings close enough to check on them regularly, it is always worrisome.
Some of the most difficult conversations we have with our parents are the ones where we have to tell them that we don’t think they are safe enough to drive anymore or live safely in their own houses. So, this is what I want to know. How much do we push our parents? How much do our parents expect of us as children? Finally, what are we going to expect from our own kids as we age. It’s something to think about and in the meantime, my husband and I are going try to come up with a plan for the future that keeps the stress at a minimum for us and for our kids.