Facing the Fear with Aging Parents

Cindy Sproles

Fear is debilitating and it comes in various forms. As children, we depended on the strength and comfort of our parents when we were afraid. It was their tender words, soft voice and tight hugs that brought us peace.

How does fear attack our aging parents and how can we help relieve the anxiety?

Fear Attacks the Senses

Fear first attacks that which we take for granted. It begins in the simplicity of the five senses. Taste, smell, hearing, touch, and sight.

Perhaps your parents do not hear as well as they once did. Where once our loved ones did not fear someone approaching them from behind, they now cannot hear the approach of others and they’re easily startled. Their sight may be failing and the fear of falling or losing the recognition of those they love comes into play. A hug that was once gentle and short may become clingy and long. The need to hold your hand or arm may become apparent.

It’s important for family members to realize these simple changes and tenderly address these fears with their aging parents, keeping in mind the fears are valid. Ask yourself the questions, how would I feel if I couldn’t hear as well, or I couldn’t see like I used to? The deterioration of the senses robs our seniors of their confidence—a confidence that made them the tower of strength we knew as children. It’s frightening when you are faced with the loss of daily living skills.

Fear Attacks Personal Independence.

The fear of losing their independence follows. It’s a difficult and trying time when our aging parents come to grips with the reality that they cannot do for themselves any longer. For the bigger part of their lives they’ve been responsible for their finances, their shopping, housekeeping and medical decisions. One senior compared the loss of his independence to being locked inside a box filling with water and being unable to tread water long enough to keep from drowning. It’s important we as children realize the value of our parents and the need for them to be as active as possible for as long as possible in their personal affairs.

Losing one’s independence often leads to the fear of loneliness, and from that, the fear of dying alone.

Learning to look for early signs of fear in your aging parents is important. Open the lines of communication early. Talk with your parents. Ask them what their wishes and desires are and then act with compassion when the time arrives to face these difficulties. Be encouraging, be available and be willing to listen. Our own well thought out responses will aid in the transition of this season of life.

Recognizing the needs of your loved ones and putting the necessary help they may need early on with caregivers will help ease the fear of the unknown. Remember the golden rule, “Treat others the way you want to be treated,” and then act on that rule.

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