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My Parents Are Aging

By Yana Berlin

Parenting Our Parents

Today’s blog deals with a sad topic, but one we all must deal with sooner or later—aging parents.

It’s amazing how time flies.  As children, we’re dependent upon our parents for virtually everything in life.  The next thing you know, we’re all grown up, giving our parents advice, telling them what to do and trying to organize their lives.  The amazing thing is that they actually listen and sometimes even comply.

I was always very proud of having the youngest parents around.  My parents got married and had me when they were barely 18.   It was wonderful growing up with young parents, and I feel blessed to have them still relatively young next to my children and I.  However, most of my friends are not as fortunate.  Their parents tend to be much older, and the years take their toll.  As a result, I get to watch how they struggle to take care of their parents while balancing their own lives.   

grandparents

In my culture, a nursing home is not an option.  So as we strive to live our best lives by being the best in everything, it is becoming harder then ever to cater to ailing parents and still be there for our children and spouses.  What can we do?  The answer lies in planning ahead.

We all know that some things are inevitable, and just as we plan for our retirement, we must think of our parents’ final years as well.  Some of our parents are financially well off and have provided for their care.  But for those who didn’t, it’s our job as children to make sure that when the time comes, we’re prepared to take care of them as they took care of us, until the very last day.

Talk About the Financials

I want to share with you a sad but funny story I recently heard.   

A friend’s grandfather - who is very wealthy - decided to open a CD without saying a word to anyone.  He transferred all his money into a high-yield CD with ridiculous penalties for early withdrawal.  When the grandmother came upon a paper with a maturity date of 2034, she immediately contacted her son-in-law.  After a few calls to the bank, he confirmed that grandpa had indeed locked away all his money for the next 28 years.   

The question is – why did he do it?  His daughter is in her ‘60s and his only grandson is in his ‘40s. Clearly they could use the money when grandpa finally passes away.  The answer had to do with the misguided intentions of grandpa.  At 92, he knows he will not live forever, but he believes his children will.  So it seemed like a good long-term decision to put the money away until they “really need it.”

Please talk to your parents and get their finances straight while they are alive.  If necessary, bring in a CPA or financial planner to help with the process.  Above all, make sure they have a power of attorney in place for their finances and for their medical wishes.  Making these kinds of decisions before they are forced upon you will save all kinds of heartache and legal problems when you least need them.

Through it all, the hardest part is learning to care for those who cared for us as children.  Even when we grow up and have children of our own, we still consider ourselves children while our parents are alive.  It is only after they have left us that we become real adults and assume the mantle of “elder generation.”

For the past year, a very dear friend of mine has been struggling to take care of her sick father.  Even with the help of three sisters it has been no easy task.  Recently she asked me a poignant question for which I had no answer: How come one parent can take care of four kids, but four kids are unable to take care of one parent?

I’ll be thinking about that one for a long time to come.


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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Sep 21, 2008
    • I had older parents.  My father was 41 and my mother 37 when she had me.  I had three older sisters...9 years difference between the 3rd and me. 16 between the oldest and me.
      Anyway....my father passed away on Easter Sunday of 1998.  It was very hard, but I am glad he doesn’t suffer anymore.  There are some things worse than death.  One of them is alzheimers.  My dear mother has it and has had for over 10 years.  She was able to live by herself for 3 years after my father passed away.  Then she along with my sisters made the decision for her to move into an assisted living.  She was able to live there for (4) more years.  We then came to the point to where she was maxed out on the level of care she was receiving at the assisted living....not to mention her money.  Everything she had saved and earned through stocks had gone to her care.  We are so grateful for her planning.  Some grown children would be trying to keep every dime so they would inherit it, but my sisters and I felt that it was her money...not ours...and she should be able to live as independently as she could for as long as she could.  So...after running out of money and be at the top level of care...we moved her to a nursing home that is connected to one of our local hospitals.  They have a alzheimers wing with about 25 patients in that wing.  She now gets the very best care you could ever ask for.  The staff absolutely loves my mother...but not just my mother...they love every single patient in that wing. You can hear them constantly talking with them...hugging them....telling them they love them....it’s amazing.  It is very hard to care for elderly parents.....physically and emotionally.  My sisters and I are so grateful and so blessed to have the care that we have for our mother.  We would not accept anything but the best.  The good thing is we all live in the same area and we all drop in at different times of the day and on different days.  So she is always visited on a regular basis.  She doesn’t know me anymore but she still has her sense of humor and her quick wit that is so amazing to me.  Here you have a diseased brain but she can still make you laugh.  In some ways I have already lost my mother.  The person I visit on a regular basis is a shell of the woman I once knew.  I pray daily that God will take her and set her free of this horrible disease.  I will miss her but oh she will be free again.  And I take great comfort in knowing that one day...I will see her again.  

      Good luck to all of you that have aging parents....just remember.....have a sense of humor....only way to make it!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Titwillow64 wrote Sep 27, 2008
    • Mary, you are SO right about Alzheimer’s being worse than death.  My grandmother was diagnosed about six months after my grandfather died—also after trying unsuccessfully to maintain her in her NYC apartment of 25 years & the same neighborhood she’d lived in since the ‘30s.  She ended up living with us after an incident during which she couldn’t find her way home after a trip to the grocery store without her purse.  Thank heaven her neighbor across the hall was turning in a wallet he’d found on the subway & saw her at the local precinct or the NYPD might never have figured out where she belonged!  She ended up spending the last two years of her life in a nursing home because her care became too much for my mother to handle at home, even with the assistance of a friend who’d just finished nursing school & a sitter.  My mother is now approaching the age my grandmother was when this occurred & I pray every day that she doesn’t suffer a similar fate.  It’s a costly disease in terms of finances (nursing homes ain’t cheap, even with Medicare!) & your emotions (heaping helping of steaming hot guilt, anyone?).



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Denise LePard Elhalawany wrote Nov 21, 2008
    • Thank you for this article.  I, too, am faced with aging parents.  Even though I’m 3rd generation American, putting my parent(s) in a nursing home is not an option for me, but is for my sister.  I have informed her that I will never let that happen as I have seen first hand what some nursing homes are like.  My sister informed me that I am “on your own.”  Knowing that, I look at my parents now and thank God that I have them, but wonder and worry about how I will look after them when the time comes.  I work full time and have an ailing husband too.  When I ask my parents to “tell me where things are,” they tell me, “we are not prepared to let you know what we have, at least not yet.”  My dad has suffered a stroke, heart attack, double bypass, and countless other problems in the last 3 years and my mom has, understandably, become less able to handle the stress.  How do I get them to let me know where and what things are without being overbearing and feeling like I’m taking away their independence?  Thanks for listening.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Nov 22, 2008
    • Denise....somehow you need to stress to your parents that you are not trying to get into their personal business, but trying to be prepared for whatever may happen.  I cannot tell you how many people I come into contact with that have aging parents and nothing was discussed...POA’s were not set up until it’s too late.  

      Your parents need to understand that as they are aging....our bodies fail us many times and if and when that time comes they want to be prepared.  Just knowing where certain items are in case of an emergency is so important.  

      Having a POA for your parents is really good.  It just means if they become unable to make decisions for themselves..you are able to step in and make those decisions for them.  All POA’s read differently. But you do need to sit down with them and discuss their wishes and so forth so it will be stated what you can do or not do as their POA.   Bottom line...they have to know they can trust you with this information.  (Not saying you can’t be...just stating a fact.)
      POA’s are only good while the person is living. Once they are deceased it is no longer valid.
      Bank accounts....if they trust you...it would be good to be added to their accounts.  If they end up in the hospital in a coma...the bills do not quit coming.  You will need to be able to pay their bills and so forth.  

      Wills....if they do not have one they need to get one immediately.  It can be a grand mess when there is no will involved.  If they do have them...you need to know where it is...if in a safe deposit box...you need to be added to the box and told where the key is or be given a key.  

      Again...your parents need to understand that by planning ahead ...it will make handling affairs a lot easier.  

      Things happen...life happens....it’s smart to be ahead of the game.  Good luck....I know it’s a hard issue to deal with.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Nov 22, 2008
    • OH and one more thing....don’t ever say never on the nursing home issue.  I use to say that myself...but now I know that where my mother is...she is getting the best care she could possibly receive.  I would never be able to take care of her the way they do.  She is never in her room  being left to herself or alone.  They have her out in the living room area sitting comfortably where she can be a part of what is going on.  All of their patients are like that.  But it is alzeheimers wing.  I am completely at ease knowing that my mother is being treated like she is the queen.  They love her and they tell me that every time I go.  When I get ready to leave...one nurse always says to me...“see ya next time..we’ll love her while  you‘re gone.”  Being that it is Thanksgiving...I am so grateful for those individuals who take care of my mother...they are truly a blessing.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Encee wrote Nov 22, 2008
    • My parents were 40ish when I was born, and so I grew up with mom and dad being older.  60-something was not a problem, they were healthy and energetic and really even 70-something was still not that much of a big deal for them.
      My dad died suddenly right before his 80th birthday, 13 years ago, and my mom is now 89 and still lives independently.  She has some health concerns, but she still drives locally and takes care of her home etc.  From what I’ve seen with her this has made such a difference!  I have friends with parents in assisted-living facilities and others who have mom and dad living with them, and it does seem that when older folks have others who do everything for them it makes them age much faster.  It gives my mom a sense of accomplishment to maintain her own home at this point in life, and it’s the kind of self-pride that gives her a reason to get up everyday and do all she can.  She’s always talking about others who are well into their 90s and still active and able to drive, etc.  I’m glad she has these role models, and I think she’s amazing!  

      I learned so much from my mom growing  up, but never more than I’ve learned in the past 10 years or so.  My goodness, she never gives up!  



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Encee wrote Nov 22, 2008
    • Posted the wrong pic before!  Here’s one of mom with my kids!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Nov 22, 2008
    • That is great she is so independent.  How wonderful for her and for you and your family.  

      My mother living in the assisted living facility  gave her four years of living as independently as she could.  My sisters and I do not regret one thing that we did for her or that she did for herself.  Unfortunately...alzheimers has claimed her and we deal with that now.  But their is still a mere glimpse of my mother in the shell that she is in....and I focus on that now.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Nov 22, 2008
    • My mother turned 82 on Nov.6th.  She doesn’t really know who I am but she does know that Nov. 6th is her birthday.  How wierd is that?  But she told everyone that day that she was 102...LOL.  I told her that I wouldn’t tell everyone that and she said to me ” I think it’s funny“...and just laughed.  

      Dealing with alzheimers...you have to get in their world...and you have to laugh about things.  If you don’t...you’ll go crazy.  

      She thinks my father is still living and she thinks her parents are too.  WE go along with her story.  

      Last year..on her birthday...she was having a baby...LOL....I told her, “mama, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of an 81 year old having a baby” and she replied, “well stranger things have happened“..and then just laughed.  And we do.......

      All I can say to those who have parents that are still independent and doing fine.....just be prepared...that’s all.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Nov 22, 2008
    • My post posted twice....

      As I stated before.....

      Get a will....
      Establish POA’s
      Leave instructions....list insurance policies...anything...that someone needs to know about...
      Living wills established



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Jacquie6363 wrote Nov 22, 2008
    • I am one of the blessed to have a younger mom/dad.  Mom was 17, when she had me.  She will be turning 65 in January and I very blessed to have her still in that collective state.  My grandmother, who shares the same birthday with her will be 83 and she I think is much more collective than either one of us, she sees better than I do.  I thank God for them and do feel very blessed.

      To all you FAB Sista with aging parents, like Teeky stated, tell them often how much you love them.  I don’t know a whole lot about alzheimers, but I understand that they have a better long term memory than short term and that’s why, they can remember episodes from their childhood better than the present.

      Jacquie



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Encee wrote Nov 22, 2008
    • My prayers are with you and your mom, maryclark.  If my mother ever had a problem, and you know it’s never for sure that she’ll stay independent,  I would do everything possible to keep her home, or in assisted living. But, if she required more attention, I would place her where she needed to be.  I respect everyone who goes through such an agonizing decision, and pray that I don’t have to do that.  I’m the youngest and for many reasons it will be me more than the others who has to be strong and step up to the plate.  I may brag about my mom, but you know I’ve got the fear inside just like anyone else would who has a parent nearing 90 years old.
      I didn’t mean in any way to down assisted living or having mom and dad live with you. I’m just proud to tears of my mom getting past my dad’s death and succeeding on her own. We have to make choices when circumstances force us. And a good facility is a great thing when it’s needed.  I’d do it in a second.  Or give my mom whatever type of home she needed to be in because of her needs.  I don’t tell her that because the idea frightens her, but I know she knows.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Nov 22, 2008
    • Encee.....you didn’t down the assisted living.  If you think I took it that way...I didn’t...not at all.  I was just stating that they assisted living gave MY mother that little bit of independence without putting her health or life in jeopardy.  

      My mother has had alzeheimers now...for over 10 years.  Hers is very slow.  

      That is wonderful for your mother to have survived your father’s death and has been able to make it on her own.  That truly is an accomplishment and one you all should be proud of.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Encee wrote Nov 22, 2008
    • Thank you !



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Blaque_dahlia wrote Apr 15, 2009
    • I am the youngest and have two brothers with families and are too self absorbed to deal with our aging parents, so it all falls on me.  I have been caring for my family for most of my life and I am truly tired and feel taken for granted at times.  I have not even had the opportunity to have a life because a member of my family always needs something.  It’s the same mother who told me when she was well, I would never amount to sh*t, but here I am changing her depends, bathing her, and feeding her.  It’s not easy, and anyone who still has loving parents is truly blessed because Alzheimer’s is a beast.  I just needed to vent.  Thanks!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Joanne Root wrote Oct 12, 2009
    • My parents, both in their late 70’s, are healthy, in both body and mind. But fate has it that my once vibrant in-laws (both of which I love dearly) have been dealt a different hand.  

      My mother-in-law of 25 years was diagnosed with the dreadful “A“, two years ago. Dad thought, it is early, no need to worry, medication will help. =( But that is not the case. We recently spent a week at the Jersey Shore and what an eye opener. Dad looked like hell and mom barely knew who we all were. She needs constant looking out for, cannot do anything that includes the kitchen, and needs help in bathing and bathroom needs.  

      We live in Florida...and they in Pa. Thank goodness a sister lives near by and has helped out but now she is going through a divorce and is being forced to sell the house.

      It will be a difficult time for all, near and far.  

      We fear more for Dad’s well being...knowing mom is being papmpered and dad is doing most of the grunt work. He refuses to get home care involved saying he can handle it. We have pleaded with him, just a couple days a week, to give you a break....He has aged so much in the last year, and here my mother-in-law looks wonderful!

      So wish we could be closer!

      Jo (Joanne)



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Barbaras wrote Jul 24, 2010
    • My Dad passed away at a young 68. I left the UK for America when I was only 21, and then I thought my parents, then in their 40s were young and would live forever. I like my life here in the US but really miss the times we would have had together in those years had I lived closer. Now my Mum, in her mid 70s lives with me in Florida. I choose to care for her as long as I can, and although I say never to a nursing home, there are times when the rest of my life seems to take a beating when my Mum has some of her forgetful times, or has fallen. Aging parents is such a touching subject. How to keep living our own lives, while caring for parents.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Nuncita wrote Oct 11, 2010
    • Please consider yourselves blessed if you still have your parents. I lost my Dad when I was 24 and my Mom when I was 36, I am now 58.

      I am a Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES), a Realtor who specializes in working with seniors and their families. I see first hand how difficult making decisions about aging parents can be. I am also a member of Family Care America an organization that supports caregivers.  

      We sponser the National Caregivers Library, a website that offers support, information, checklists and forms to help families deal with issues surrounding babyboomers, matures, sandwich generation challenges, etc and it’s all free.  

      Check it out and pass it forward to anyone you think may benefit from it: www.caregiverslibrary.org. I can’t seem to get this linked so copy and paste to your address bar.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Plussize4you wrote Feb 10, 2011
    • I Love my parents, they are in their mid 70s now and I get really stressed to think of the day when they wont be around. I have been blessed to have two reasonably healthy parents all of my life.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Marya1961 wrote Apr 26, 2012
    • I am also blessed to have two healthy parents..my dad being 77 and my mom almost 75.  Thankfully, they have prepared for their future financially, but it is still difficult in many ways, especially since they live in a different state and it can be tough to see them as much as possible.  I am in charge of everything, so they will be my responsibility when the time comes that they are no longer able to take complete care of themselves.



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