Same Time Next Year

 I often advised children of aging parents to be on the lookout for signs that their parent was deteriorating – a change in mental status, loss of appetite, depression, etc.  Unfortunately, my personal experience is somewhat of a cautionary tale.

My Mom died this past August and it came as a tremendous shock. There was no acute condition that led to her passing, but rather a gradual deterioration in her overall health. My Mother was only 75 – young by today’s standards.

I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the year or so before my Mother died. It wasn’t that I hadn’t noticed that she was slowing down and that daily living was becoming harder.  My sister and I had been successful in convincing my Mother that it was time for a live-in caregiver and that was working out well. But more changes were needed.

When I talked with my Mother and suggested downsizing her home or putting in a stair-glider (to make life a little easier), or vacationing at the beach (to lift her spirits), she would act as if she were considering my suggestions. Ultimately her answer was always the same … “no”. My mother vehemently insisted that she was an adult and could run her own life.

I acquiesced. What I perceived to be sheer stubbornness was, in retrospect, my mother’s way of saying she was too worn out to make plans or changes. She was giving up right before my eyes – and I never saw it.

So as this year comes to a close, I will once again advise children of aging parents to be on the lookout for signs that their loved one is deteriorating and needs help.  Sometimes the signs are subtle; look closely.

If your parent resists your help, persist. When you were a child, I’m sure there were times that your parents made decisions that were in your best interest, yet they angered you. As parents grow old and roles change, sometimes as adult children, we need to love our parents enough for them to be angry with choices we attempt to make on their behalves.

Maybe there was nothing I could have done to enable my Mother to be here with me now. But I encourage you to be observant and do whatever you can for your aging loved ones, with the hope that they will be here with you, same time next year.