Sunday, January 1, 2012

Help Aging Parents: Their Private Thoughts as 2011 Ends and 2012 Begins

"With the new year approaching, what are your thoughts about the past year and the upcoming new year?"

This question was asked of a sampling of aging women, whose introspective, candid responses offer insights into sadness, concerns, resignation and hopes. Some live independently in their homes; others in assisted living.  While the contrast is understandable, it surprised me initially.

  • "It was a wonderful year because I kept well and mobile, which is important not only to exist, but to live. I hope I get through to another new year--the future can close in on you. Not everyone can live to be 100." (86)
  • "All I know is you have to hope and pray things will get better. The country is so torn apart. I try to live my life in such a way that I still am in charge and I'm still involved. But there's a certain amount of fear that I will lose this independence." (90's)
  • "Christmas (December) isn't the greatest time to be an older person. Cards come in from friends--some aren't well, then a card comes from only Jean--not Jean and Richard and I realize Richard had been ill and has obviously died....
        There's a melancholy about the past--you have more memories than you 
        have plans. You know certain things aren't practical, possible. Big chunks 
        of things that make life happy aren't there any more...I push it out of my 
        mind, telling myself how lucky I am...I must draw on the resources I have.

         So I look forward to the new year when things return to normal and I 

         volunteer at the church and do another volunteer job. A big part of life is 
         plans and future. Without plans, a date on a calendar doesn't mean 
         anything." (early 80's)
  • "The world is---ugh! I don't like listening to the news. And lately I've heard of so many people I know falling. You don't know what's going to happen next." (89)
  • "It's not comfortable living in this world with all of its problems. Some nights I go to bed and don't want to wake up. Looking forward: I'm concerned about my children--will they remain close, how will they be after I go." (83)
  • "My husband is very ill." Looking forward: "I'm hoping he passes away before I do because he couldn't handle things alone." (78)
  • "I feel like I've been put here by my children." Looking forward: "I worry about my grandchildren's future...the kind of world it will be."
  • "I'm lucky I got this far (after serious health issues) and got to meet my new great- grandchild...and hope I'll be around to watch her grow next year. I'm feeling sorry for myself--I ended up here. I don't like feeling this way. Then I look at the picture of that beautiful baby and I'm glad I'm here." (86)
As we make our New Year's resolutions, the above may provide ideas when thinking about helping our aging parents. There's uncertainty ahead as always, but perhaps more of it in today's world for both young and old....but then again, there's also hope.  May 2012 be a good year for you and your aging parents as we try to help parents age well.

(PS. The first 4 responses are from people living independently; the last 4 are from those in assisted living.)


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