Tag Archive | Aging Parents

Being Proactive

photo courtesy www.pixabay.com & geralt

photo courtesy http://www.pixabay.com & geralt

Proactive is not just an acne scrub. It’s vital to your aging loved one. The world keeps families swamped with activity. Between summer sporting activities, friends, camps, and work, rest for the weary seems hopeless. It’s hard enough to keep up with the kids and their activities, much less manage an aging parent but here in lies the problem.

Loneliness and depression can, and will, slip in like a thief in the night. It’s easy to assume aging parents are doing well, especially when they are still able to drive and maintain their daily activities. The best rule of thumb is simply to never assume anything.

Joe and Mary were married 50 years. Joe suddenly passed away. Mary, always active and somewhat the decision maker, seems to work through the loss like a champion. Her children were amazed how she handled the loss of their dad. Mary mourned for a short time, but then it was life as usual. Her children saw her weekly, spoke with her on the phone constantly but suddenly Mary became ill.  After a brief stay in the hospital her children thought she was fine. Instead, Mary had a slow, continual weight loss. She grew quieter at family gatherings, but not so much that the children thought it odd. Little changes occurred slowly over time – almost unnoticeable. One day, Mary’s daughter opened the refrigerator to pop in a casserole.  She was stunned. Vegetables were black, milk curdled, foods were moldy. Reality set in and though Mary seemed to be fine, the children realized she was depressed.

It’s not uncommon for very active aging parents to grow depressed. One must remember the era in which they were raised – a time when emotions were shoveled over the shoulder and “the just get it done” attitude kicked in. Depression was not recognized when our 80+ parents were youthful. The world was a different place, where people moved ahead despite the hardships. Many doctors referred to this as “survival mode.” Parents moved ahead simply because they had no option.

Despite having a good family, Mary’s kids did not see the importance of being proactive. They didn’t see the changes because they were slow and subtle. The children were horrified this happened to their mom. They thought their visits and calls were sufficient. After all, it wasn’t like they’d abandoned their mother. She was an active part of their lives.

Being proactive is not only being present physically with parents, but it is truly walking a fine line between no attention and over reacting. So how do family members become proactive? Follow these steps to help assure your aging parent is on track.

*Have those heart-to-heart talks – Take time to reminiscence those happy times past. Gently dig a little deeper into the heart of the surviving parent. Reassure them emotion is acceptable, even show your own emotion. Sometimes a good cry is exactly what is needed to pass through grief in a healthy manner.

*Accompany loved ones to doctor appointments -Keep in mind, as they grow older, loved ones do not always pay close attention to physician instructions.  Keep a notebook of dates, times, and reasons for doctor appointments. List instructions and verify the need for all medications.

*Keep an eye on the refrigerator -If foods are spoiling, it’s a clear sign your loved one is not eating. Carve time to prepare a meal for your parent in their own home. This will allow the opportunity to observe the refrigerator contents, pantry, and see exactly how much food parents are consuming.

*When conversation begins to wain from chatty to quiet, it’s time to get to the source of the silence. Depression comes in many forms. It’s not always sadness.

Learning to be proactive takes practice. It’s taking the step of due diligence to step into what has always seemed private to your loved one. Remember, their spouse is no longer there to take this role. Sometimes it feels awkward, but gently is the working word. Be proactive in your aging parent’s life even when they seem well. You’ll become keenly aware of changes and begin to ward off bad things before they happen.

Choose Your Battles – Effects of Dementia on the Family

MP900442315 By Cindy Sproles
Entering the “golden years” of life should be a joyful and exciting time. For most, the years when retirement becomes a reality and life grows less stressful, is a wonderful time. If aging parents have planned well, their homes are paid for, expenses are overall less, and this season of life, by all due rights, should be a time to relax and enjoy. But what happens when the hopes and dreams of a well-planned retirement shifts?

According to the Institute for Dementia Research & Prevention, there over “5 million individuals with age-related dementias.” One in six women, and one in ten men over the age of 55 will be affected by some form of Alzheimer’s or dementia.  Thanks to cutting edge research, new methods of treatment, including medications, cognitive skills tasks, and physical activity are being developed to help manage dementia.

In an article from Helpguide.org, dementia includes a various assortment of symptoms from memory loss, personality changes, to impaired intellectual functions. Along with the decrease in memory, impaired judgment, faulty reasoning, inappropriate behaviors, loss of communication skills, and disorientation accompany the disease. All of these symptoms mean frustration for the affected parent and the family members.

It is still a mystery as to why our affected aging parents become obstinate to those they love the most, but the key to dealing with any form of dementia is learning to pick your battles. Frequently, well-meaning family members find themselves continually correcting facts with  their seniors who deal with memory loss. For example, a senior may say, “Isn’t that yellow couch pillow beautiful?” The pillow is actually blue.  There’s no need to correct the loved one, when the color of the pillow really doesn’t matter. The instinct to help the loved one remember the color blue comes with good intentions. However, correcting a senior over something this simple is frustrating and leads to agitation.

It’s important to understand, depending on the severity of the dementia, your aging parent is aware their memory is not serving them efficiently. They grow frustrated and irritable when they cannot control the thoughts they once managed successfully.  There comes a time when  therapeutic fiblets  are considered not only appropriate, but necessary. Therapeutic fiblets are those necessary lies that allow affected seniors to maintain a high quality of life over a life of anger, frustration, and feelings of disrespect. Our nature pushes us to tell only the truth to our aging seniors. Never lie to your elders. But when the world of reality for your aging parent is thirty years prior and not today, forcing current facts on them sends them into a state of chaos.  Should your parent think they are living with their spouse, who in reality passed away twenty years earlier, is forced into current reality, they are put at risk. One of two things can happen: 1) they will accept the news and begin the mourning process over  2) the parent will adamantly deny the truth. Therapeutic fiblets become a necessary fact in dealing with dementia.

Diagnosis for dementia and Alzheimer’s can be a slow process especially in the early, milder phases.  Memory slips are easily hidden or brushed to the side, but as the disease progresses and loved ones drift forward and back in time, what becomes most important is their quality of life. It is vital family members understand dementia is a progression. Though simple word games, and reading are good ways to help exercise and maintain the brain, they are not fixes. Dementia does not improve, rather it only leads to eventual decline. Learning to choose the important battles are important.  Providing a stress free environment becomes the primary goal so patients are relaxed and comfortable. Debating the day of the week or the color of a couch become less important and allowing a good quality of life takes the lead.

As loved ones slip deeper into themselves, recognition fades, names seem to go to the wayside, but the love that is felt by a caring family never leaves. Dementia is difficult at best, but holding tight to the joys of that wonderful parent are precious.

*Develop good habits and routines early on, i.e. putting the keys in the same bowl by the door every time, using post-it notes for reminders, securing a personal emergency response button.
*Simplify choices by paring down clothing in closets or lessening dishes and kitchen utensils. Rid the home of clutter. The fewer decisions that must be made for your loved one, the better.
*Have an on-the-road driving evaluation made to assure operating a vehicle is still a good choice.
*Chat with family and friends. This keeps the mind alert. Social interaction is vital to help maintain memory skills.
*Emphasize the joy in life.

Visit https://www.alz.org/ (Alzheimer’s Association) for additional information on caring for family members with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

The Gift of “No Gifts

Courtesy of pixaby.com and ChristianDevotions

Courtesy of pixaby.com and ChristianDevotions

Here come the holidays. Long before Halloween ended, stores began the Christmas holiday push. Gift giving catalogues have hit the mail, on-line shopping has begun, even morning news shows have started sharing holiday gift specials. The world says, “It’s time to shop!”

Several years back we let my mom “off the hook” for Christmas shopping.  It wasn’t hard to see how quickly our family had grown. Shopping for every child, grandchild, and great-grandchild, though it was joyful and fun for mom, was financially taxing on her small monthly pension. In fact, it was unreasonable.

My mother is no different than any other aging parent. Christmas has always been the time when they could shower all the “grands” with loads of gifts. After all, the world insists Christmas is about giving. But many aging seniors are not fortunate enough to devote two or three months of pension to assuring gifts are under the tree. Yet they spend this money without hesitation.

For grandparents, the joy of purchasing gifts is something they look forward to on a yearly basis. It’s something they plan to do, one way or the other. So when your aging parents are faced with the grind and guilt of holiday purchases – offer them a new alternative.

Refocus the Christmas holiday to family. Invite the crowd over to a potluck dinner –the working word here is “potluck.” Feeding a small army is expensive when you consider the price of a turkey to be approximately $25 and a ham as much as $30. The question then arises . . .will one be enough? One meal for a family of 25 can soar as high as $300.  None of us set out to bust mom and dad’s budget – we simply don’t think about the cost. Encourage a potluck dinner where each portion of the family provides a part of the meal. Suggest parents provide their family’s favorite dish and everyone else will bring the fixings. You will not only save hundreds of dollars for your aging parents, but you will preserve their pride in providing Christmas dinner. A potluck allows mom to decorate the table, pull out her prettiest dishes, and spend time with those she loves without spending the day slaving over a hot stove.

Draw names. If your family insists on exchanging gifts as a whole, then consider drawing names. This cuts the cost of gift giving in half.

Set a dollar limit. Set a feasible dollar amount on gifts. If you have parents who insist on purchasing for every family member, setting a dollar amount will help curb the cost. This is equally as true when drawing names. The idea is to control spending.

Silly Santa or Family traditions. Taking gift giving back to the joy of fellowship draws families closer. Find a family tradition that brings out the fun around the Christmas tree. In our family, there is a joke about getting only socks. Yearly my mother spends a great amount of time (and little money), making sure she wraps one or two pairs of socks for each family member.  The fun comes when gifts are passed out and everyone knows what’s in the box. Each box of socks that is opened brings a rousing cheer and applause for being accepted into the family for another year. The holidays aren’t about gifts, they are about family fellowship and love.

Some families choose the chaos and fun of Silly Santa (otherwise known as Dirty Santa). Again, gifts are inexpensive, and fun.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com & geralt

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com & geralt

Handmade or sentimental giving. In our case, mother is a quilter. Each year she makes small quilted items – wall hangings, beautiful fabric bowls, potholders, or table runners. After all the gifts are opened, she has everyone pick a number then she sifts through a bowl and draws the winner. The gift may be a quilt or a magnificent wall hanging . . . the trick is, it’s made by her and for every family member the gift is sentimental.

Family cards. If your aging parents are like most, they want to purchase something. Consider prepaid gift cards to local restaurants or stores. $5, $10, even $20 cards are appreciated and much more affordable than going “all out.”

Make Christmas about your aging parents. Make the majority of the gifts under the tree, gifts for mom and dad. Give them photos of your family. Gift cards to the local grocery store or gas stations. Hire a cleaning service for a monthly visit. Purchase and paint a room in the house. Pre-pay the electric bill for a month.  Most of our parents have all the trinkets they need around the house, make your gifts practical. Your parents will appreciate the efforts.

Time. Our lives grow busier and busier each year but time is the greatest gift you can give your aging parent. Daily or weekly phone calls, visits, inviting them to your home for dinner or even a weekend stay. Going to the park, a meal out, a movie – nothing is more precious than your time especially if your parent has lost a spouse.  Remember the holidays, though joyful on the outside, can be the most painful for a single aging parent. They’ve spent over half their lives with the one they loved and now that person is gone. Seniors face loneliness, depression, and heart ache during the holiday seasons. Memories flood back as they decorate their tree and then take it down.  Your time with your parents is vital.

It’s been said that regret is a horrible bedfellow. If you have disagreements with your aging parents, put them behind you. Move ahead with forgiveness, peace, and love. Make every effort to spend quality time with your loved ones during their golden years. Unchecked efforts become deep and inconsolable regret after they are gone.

Make this holiday season a joyful and memorable one. Cut costs. Refocus on family. Make your gift to parents, the gift of no gifts. This year change up the game and allow the reason for the season to take first place in your Christmas plans.

Making the Move – Home to Assisted Living

by Cindy Sproles

It goes without saying, the decision to move a parent into an assisted living or nursing home facility is both heart wrenching and guilt filled. There is no doubt parents are happier in their own environment. Ninety-nine percent of the time, they thrive much better from their homes due to this one simple thing: A sense of independence. But what happens when it is obvious a move must be made?
Many time aging parents are reluctant – even determined, they will not move into a facility and the one card they have to play, is the guilt card. “I’ve taken care of you all your life and you just want to put me away now?” Understandably, this is a normal response to the possibilities of losing your independence.

Even the most loving parent can dig into the depths and find something to make the decision harder. Despite our best efforts, the decision to make this move can tear a family apart. Your job, and the jobs of your siblings is to prepare in advance. Sometimes the best a child can hope for is cooperation, even if it’s begrudging.

There are ways to make the transition easier and they begin well before a parent needs the assistance:

*Have the discussion – Talk with aging parents early on and hash out scenarios that can be written down and placed into important papers. Address the what ifs. What if you fall and become unable to care for yourself? What if your memory becomes clouded and you cannot remember to eat, or bathe? What if your children are living in other states? There are lots of what ifs that your family can discuss. Address these things when parents are in good health and a bit more reasonable, then, many times the guilt of making this decision vanishes.

*Do the paperwork – Take time to make preparations for aging parents. Secure necessary power of attorney for health and durable power of attorney for daily living care. Check into setting up a revocable trust that parents can divert funds or their home into which remain untouched for their care. Seek the assistance of the bank to place one executer as an owner on all bank accounts, IRA and insurance policies (simply having your name on the signature card does not allow you access to necessary funds in the event of death or an emergency). Put a living will, as well as an after-life will, into play and have copies handy in the event of an emergency. Place insurance, doctor’s names and phone numbers, pharmacies, and even copies of prescriptions and medication lists into a 3-ring binder for easy access. Add copies of drivers licenses, social security card, insurance cards – any cards that you feel might be necessary as times progresses. Having these things in place saves chaos and confusion when they are needed.

*Visit facilities – Take time to visit facilities. See what each one offers. Check out costs, insurance coverages, and out-of-pocket expenses. Check with the families of other residents and see how the care stacks up with their loved one.

When the time arrives you feel a move is necessary for the health and safety of your parent, make a doctor’s appointment, first without the parent and then later with the parent affected. Ask your questions, express your concerns. Give the doctor a heads up on your loved one. Then schedule an appointment with the parent. Allow the doctor to do a fair assessment and testing, and if the medical professional deems it necessary, allow them to be the one to recommend a move. Many times, aging parents will listen to the doctor before they will listen to their children. Again, it’s the fear of losing independence. Have and exhibit a show of compassion for this blow to your aging parent. It hurts and honestly, it’s frightening, so try to roll with the punches.

Once the doctor has delivered the news, allow your parent some time to absorb the news. Don’t rush out of the office and into a facility. Offer your loved one some space to gather their thoughts and take in the reality of first – aging to this point; and secondly, releasing their independence. It is, after all, a life altering decision.

Making the Move

*Take time to sort through possessions as a family – A few weeks prior to moving your parent, take time to sift through belongings with them. Allow them to pick and choose what they need to take. Remember they, they have to mentally adjust to having their possessions dispersed. Help them choose the sentimental items they can take with them that will keep their family and sense of familiarity close. Allow aging parents to give certain items to particular family members.

elderly-handsA family recently moved their mother into an assisted living. Her great granddaughter had married a few months prior and grandmother was able to completely provide her granddaughter with all the necessities of homemaking – a new washer, dryer, refrigerator, stove, dishes, etc. It was a joy for this grandmother to give these items to her great grandchild knowing they would provide her with the same warmth and joy of housekeeping as they’d provided herself. The key to sorting through possessions with an aging parent is taking the time to reminisce as items are packed away. Once again, be compassionate.

*Purchase a new mattress – Though this can be costly, it’s worth the effort. It’s difficult enough to sleep in a strange surrounding, but making the most of rest is vital. It sounds silly, but a new mattress that is comfortable helps lull your loved one into a more restful sleep. And a good night’s sleep is worth the effort. Loved ones will rest better, eat better, and have a healthier attitude if they are well rested.

*Don’t forget to take the hobbies – If your mother is an active seamstress, take her sewing. If dad is an avid reader, make sure he has access to his reading. Try to make room for their favorite chair. It’s the little things that mean the most.

*Keep their routine – If you visit weekly prior to the move, continue to do so. Routine is important. If mom has her hair done weekly, keep the routine. Not only do these routines help maintain “normal,” they also allow a sense of independence to care for one’s self. Take parents shopping, to church, and on outings. Being pro-active is vital. Your job as a caregiver at home may have lessened but it has not ended. Remain in close contact with your aging parents. It will make all the difference in the world.

The decision to move into an assisted living or nursing home facility is hard but as a family, you can make the transition a joy and an adventure.

Adding a caregiver into the mix will help make the transition easier, especially in the evenings when family has gone home. Will there still be bumps in the road? More than likely. Will all transitions be an easy fix? Probably not. But if you make the effort to make the move as easy and natural as possible, the weight and guilt of the decision is easier.

Love Them Gently Into the Golden Years

Photo courtesy of www.openculture.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.openculture.com

Written and released originally by recording artist, Otis Redding, Respect became the signature and hit for R&B singer, Aretha Franklin and the anthem for many who appreciated what respect meant to them.

The very nature of humans teeter on respect. Our self-esteem, our confidence, even decision making, pends on how we feel about ourselves. When we feel pushed down or brushed off, the very thing that builds us, tears us down.

Our country is seeing the last of those veterans who served in World War II, laid to rest. Those who were an active part of this nations greatest technological, industrial, and medical technologies era are slowly fading. The age of work ethic, strong sense of family, and personal responsibility fades with them. As the new fast-paced world of instant messages and cell phones over take our seniors, it leaves behind the one thing valued most by them – their respect.

At a slower time in this country’s history, a man was known by his integrity and his word. If he committed to a task, he completed it regardless of issues. It was, by all due rights, what earned him the title of respected.

Our seniors are caught in a time warp. Nestled between the old and the new. In their lifetime, they’ve seen the invention of every major life’s convenience known to man. Yet, in the midst of the of all this development, our seniors – the creators of these modern conveniences, are forgotten. Treated as second class. Disrespected. And it has only served to break them.

In this world of instant gratification, the youth of our country grow impatient when grandma can’t operate a smart phone or granddaddy gives up on the newest remote control. Instead of showing grace or offering assistance, they quickly snap at them, leading seniors to feel less than adequate and incapable.Senior woman contemplating

It’s important to remember how the aging process works and then practice the necessary methods needed to uplift their aging loved ones rather than tear them down.

According to a recent article posted on WedMD.com,  Dr. Kenneth Minaker, MD, chief of geriatric medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School stated, “Aging is a life-saving process,” he says. “It is a process of lifelong adaptation to prevent us from developing cancers that would kill us.” Though we look at aging as a deterioration of our bodies, in essence, it’s an adaptation of our bodies to help us adjust as we slowly complete the life process.

Outside of the obvious decline in eyesight and hearing, reflexes, movement, and mental aspects begin to slow. The mind processes slightly slower. The ability of being agile lessens, joints and muscles tighten and stiffen. Our ability to problem solve lessens somewhat. The result of these things reveals itself through frustration and agitation.

Learning to be an encouragement to our aging parents is important. Make a concerted effort to offer them the respect they have earned in a lifetime of hard work, and family rearing. It’s enough to come to the realization that our bodies do not function the way they once did, but when seniors are constantly treated as second class or as a problem to the family, the respect is gone. And when the respect leaves, aging parents falter.

Practice these tips to learn a deeper respect for your aging parents:

Reflect over your own life – Regardless of our age, we have a past. Grant you, the past of a twenty-year-old is nothing compared to that of a eighty-year-old, but the fact remains, taking a small amount of time daily to reflect over your own life’s choices, successes and even failures, softens your attitude toward others. Self-reflection allows us to look into ourselves and take notes, which in turn, help us self-correct.

Joe, a thirty-year-old computer analyst, entered his workplace frustrated a co-worker had parked in his space. Even though it was an open parking lot, spaces were not labeled, Joe parked in the same spot everyday. Three rows back, second from the end, just enough space to get in easily and exit quickly. Today, a co-worker took his parking space. Madaline, an older receptionist, greeted Joe daily as he entered the building. Her smile and sweet nature was a joy.  Joe bolted through the front door angry. Breezing past Madaline, he remarked wasn’t it time she retired because she just didn’t “get” the needs of the employees any longer.

Self-reflection gave Joe the perspective he needed to understand his actions toward Madaline were  unwarranted and hurtful. Not only had he insulted Madaline out of anger, but as his elder and having forty plus years in the company, he disrespected her.

Elderly Man Touching ChinSpend time with the elderly – Take note of the company you keep. Do you spend time with seniors outside of your grandparents? If not, ask yourself why. Many times, aging seniors frighten us. Not because of who they are, but because of what they represent to us. In them, we see our own immortality. Our future; and that can be scary. However, making the effort to spend quality time with seniors allows us the opportunity to learn about our past and to understand the aging process is natural and nothing to be feared. Sensitivity develops and a deeper compassion for those who “can’t move”  as fast as they once did.

Notice the seniors around you – Pay attention to the seniors who surround you. Take note of their value and contributions both past and present. Build them up. Thank them for their wisdom and service. After all, without them, we would not be.

Be considerate of seniors’ well being – Learn patience. Take extra steps to assist a senior in the store, or on the street. Be kind and understand their hearing is not what it used to be. More so, treat them with respect. They’ve earned it. Treating a senior with respect lifts their spirits, encourages their health, and strengthens their desire to maintain.

Finally, be respectful – Remember, our seniors are from a different age in time when things were different. Manners were important. Practice good, old fashioned manners. Call them Mr. or Mrs. unless they request otherwise. Stand when they enter a room. Say thank you and please. Today’s world preaches for us to meet the youth of America, “where they are.” When in retrospect, the same should apply to our seniors. Meet them where they are. Help them where it is needed and be respectful of their past position and current status.

Respect comes in scores of ways. Our seniors deserve our patience and respect. Practice these skills and see how your own life improves.

The Terrible F-word…Fear

As baby boomers assume more and more responsibility for their aging parents a number of issues move to the forefront—questions that need to be answered, fears that need to be soothed.

Providing appropriate care for our aging parents places a huge and unexpected burden on young families. Adult children are torn as to how to offer the most appropriate care for their parents.

Here are a few suggestions which will help ease the fear that accompanies the decisions for our aging parents.

Private caregivers verses company hired caregivers. The first choice of family members for the care of their elder parents is immediate family members. However, extended family quickly dissipates as the weeks of care progress. Immediate family members have the responsibility to care for their own families as well as their parents. One cannot interrupt the regular schedule of a home for an extended time without dire consequences.

A second choice is to hire private duty caregivers. These usually come from friends or  media sources such as classified ads. Though there are many wonderful caregivers found through this method, families are placing themselves in a high risk situation.

If a private duty caregiver is ill or out of town, families are left without care for their senior. For every one caregiver hired outside a company that is wonderful there are five who will not be reliable.

Most insurance companies will not cover any injury to a private duty caregiver under the homeowners policy. Why? This is a workman’s compensation claim and most general homeowner polices do not provide coverage for “employees” of the homeowner. You are at serious risk to be sued to cover major medical expenses.

Backgrounds checks are costly and difficult to attain for the average individual. Most families will only attain a county background check and assume their search is complete. Full background searches through a national data base are necessary to protect your family and your senior from serious consequence.

The benefits of a caregiver company.  There is no question that it is more costly to attain the services of a company who provides caregivers. However, the benefits far outweigh the cost.

By hiring a licensed and bonded company you are hiring quality and responsibility. Many companies are not licensed, bonded, and insuranced even though the State of Tennessee requires these items. Companies who are licensed adhere to the strict standards set by the State and Federal guidelines and are accountable for their actions. Families who hire companies have a mediator in the event there should be any questionable actions of the company providing care.

Companies provide their own liability insurance as well as their own workman’s compensation to cover their employees. And quality companies bill the client, taking any financial responsibilities away from the caregiver and providing records for insurance and accounting.

You will not be left without care. Companies provide quality caregivers and should one become ill or be unable to work, they are able to replace that caregiver quickly and keep your family on track.

By hiring a quality company such as Comfort Keepers, the needs of your loved one will be met with pride, love and compassion taking the fear away from the family and allowing exceptional care that is necessary to keep the aging parent comfortable and happy.

The Natural Progression of Life

elderly-handsDeath is a hard subject, one most individuals prefer to ignore. The popular idea of, if it’s not thought about then it’s not a reality, hides beneath the surface. Yet, death is very much a reality. No one has a magic “get out of jail free” card on this one. Death will, at some point, touch every individual.

The thoughts of giving up a loved one are sometimes more than we can bear. Life without that person is unimaginable.

In an article by Craig Bowron, MD, published in the Washington Post (February 17, 2012), Dr. Bowron brought to light many thought provoking ideas every family should consider when it comes to the natural progression of life for their aging parents. Some of his ideas are heartbreakingly shocking and they deal not with the aging, parent, but with the families and their duty to care effectively for them.

Dr. Bowron noted how and why life expectancy has risen since the 1900’s. Improved medical advances certainly played a role, but the simple development of improved diets, cleanliness, and urbanization decreased infant and maternal mortality by thousands. Still the primary cord that rings true in our present day world is the lack of family involvement until death’s knock suddenly arrives.

Simply translated, in the early years of our nation, as age stole away the elderly’s abilities, they came to live under the same roof as their children. Families as a whole, shared the sometimes lengthy and harsh suffering their aging parents experienced, changing their view on death. Death, in these times came as a welcomed visitor, allowing their parents to slip away with dignity and in an environment they felt loved and cared for. It was, by all due rights, normal.

Today’s world separates families. Children move across country in search of a better life, leaving aging parents behind. Though they may keep in touch, distance does what it does best – it takes away the connection.

For many, the care of an aging parent is not intentionally ignored, rather it’s skewed by the distance. The inability to be actively involved in the day to day routine of a senior’s health issues has vanished. As a parent’s health deteriorates, children no longer experience the progression of illness or disease. Instead, they assume all health issues are fixable. Medical technology is amazing. There are things that can be done to stop this process. Care is tossed into the hands of medical professionals and exceptional results are expected. Dr. Bowron goes on to state, “…our culture has come to view death as a medical failure rather than life’s natural conclusion.”

Take this story as an example. A seventy-one year-old man, strong in appearance, apparently healthy is stricken suddenly with stage 4 lung cancer. His children have always been actively involved in their parent’s lives. As a close knit family it was natural for the children to step alongside their mother in the decisions and care of their father.

The prognosis from doctors was bleak. Radiation would be a temporary solution but ultimately his comfort should take precedence.heat

Entertaining the idea of death was not an option for this family however, after only one month into his treatment they realized the desires they longed for, were their own.

Their father willingly submitted to the care the family suggested. Though his thoughts were that compliance would make this season easier on his family, when they asked him to consider traveling to a hospital that specialized in this type of cancer, he said no. They suddenly understood his treatment was not about them, it was about what was best spiritually, mentally, and physically for their father.

Studies have shown the effects of prayer on those who suffer extreme illness. Though every patient may not recover, they have a lower stress level, peace, and personal acceptance level for their treatment and prognosis. As Christians we understand the power behind prayer and we understand the will of God may not be our will. God knows best in every life. And here in lies the truth in caring for aging parents who are ill. Trust in the natural progression of life and the will of God.

When we stand toe-to-toe with death, it forces us to reach for preservation. The ultimate desire to extend the life of an individual only to cause them more pain and suffering pushes us into a catch twenty-two – the love we have for our aging parents verses the  natural progression of life.

There are exceptions to every rule. Families who intentionally do not participate in the care of their elders then demand medical interventions out of an unrecognized guilt. The attitude of “I’ll fix this,” allows them to take control and paint the picture of love and care that serves as personal satisfaction rather than gentle and loving care. When death claims the life they’ve stepped into repair, they find their comfort in blaming the medical profession. They could have done more.

The hard truth is, death is the natural progression of life and though we should make every effort to use medicine as a means of healing, there is something to be said for the quality of life. Acceptance of the progression.

The family of this elderly man, sought out their father’s desires. They cared for him, kept him comfortable, and allowed him the dignity he requested. He accepted treatments but when he drew the line, the family stepped into the role of support. Though his loss was devastating, they rested in the peace of their father’s wishes. Their faith turned to a deeper trust that God’s will was to take precedence over their own desires.

Four months later, the man passed as his family kissed him and offered him permission to leave them. And there was peace.

This article, by no means, advocates that families opt out of medical care or lifesaving measures. These things are truly personal preference. Modern medicine is a blessing and for many, the lifesaving advances are miracles. However, what this article does advocate, is the awareness, acceptance, and compassion for caring for an aging parent , and the importance of understanding their end-of-life desires. It advocates personal and family involvement, long before illness strikes building deep, strong bonds that live on after the loss of a parent.

???????????Care for your parents. Remember, even in the busyness of your life, the priority of family stands greater than anything else. Discuss end-of-life decisions with aging parents to know their wishes. The conversations are hard at best. It may be extensive measures are the choices of the parent. And then, it may not be. Either way, there is peace in knowledge. Knowledge allows a family to prepare and then in the throngs of hardship and loss, accept the progression.