Aging column: Tips on adapting to aging parents
Very few people relish the idea of getting older. The losses one must deal with are certainly difficult. Our bodies become less physically able to handle activities we once never even gave a second thought to performing. Our minds seem to slow down; more and more of our friends and colleagues become seriously ill and/or pass away; and for most of us, watching those we love lose their ability to manage daily activities that used to be mundane, can be heart-wrenching.
It is so hard to see our parents age. Those once-invincible, ageless parents of ours are now becoming more and more dependent on us for support — that’s certainly a role reversal for both. Yet there are a few simple ideas, that if acted upon, can make all the difference in our parents’ world, as well as ours, when it comes to coping with the aging process.
We tend to make our lives much more complicated than they need to be. Below are some ways to move forward in life with as little pain as possible:
• Don’t fret over things over which you have no control. People get sick and age — it is part of the life process. Instead of beating yourself up every day about how old your parents are getting, embrace the life they’ve lived and encourage them to be as active as possible while they are still with us.
• Be involved in your parents’ lives. Do things for them. Offering to assist your parents with even the most routine tasks may provide a great opportunity to reconnect to each other. Don’t under estimate the power of helping someone do something they can no longer do for themselves.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
• Forgive yourself and your parents for all those things that were never meant to be said or the times you put your needs before your parents’ needs and felt guilty about it.
• Say that you love someone — don’t just assume they know how you feel. While it may sound trite, you never know how many more times you may have the opportunity to say this.
• Remember the old times and laugh out loud about silly things you both did in the course of your lives.
• Make sure you make every effort to see and visit your parents and bring your children with you. If nothing else (and there are many other positive reasons for doing this), it will make you feel better about yourself.
• Develop a well-formed ability to be patient. If you have kids, you may have already done this step, yet I found that the patience we need for our parents is different than that which our kids require. Work on it; it’s important.
• Develop a level of understanding of what your parents are experiencing — this is yet another way our parents teach us about life. The aging process is not just about those who are aging, but it is about those still growing. In this life, you never stop being a teacher or a parent. You are always teaching your kids (and others) how best to deal with what will eventually occur in their lives. Your parents, in one form or another, are still teaching you about what you will experience in your life. Listen and learn.
• Understand that you will always miss your parents when they are gone. So make the time now to develop as strong a relationship as possible. This relationship will be the basis for your memories of them when they have gone.
Coping with the aging of our parents is a life lesson — one which will be taught to us whether we want to learn it or not. So embrace the lesson. Make whatever time you have left with your parents as positive as possible. Laugh, remember, cry, but above all, show your parents that you love them. It is clearly the greatest gift we have to give each other. Life is all about relationships.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Garfield County. His contact information is, http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns, 970-328-5526.
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