Parenting in Reverse

She fell right in front of me. Barely looking away for a second, she is down. 

“How could this be? I was right there with her in the same room.”

[Lesson #467: A walker does not make one independent in and of itself. Nor does a cane. While they have great merit and are incredible devices for a senior, they also leave a false sense of security.]

Welcome to caring for aging parents. 

I think about my girls as preschoolers, how everything in life seemed purposeful. More than anything, was watching for their safety. Knife playing was always out of the question. Pretty sure electrical sockets weren’t on the list for playgroup activities. At the same time, independence was always a few steps forward than yesterday: freedom and safety a delicate balance – the delight witnessing a little more of their own autonomy each day. 

As our parents grow old, we view their independence in reverse. Our fear of juggling harmful utensils replaced with fear of falling. Concerns with electrical sockets now shift to questioning if they remembered to turn the stove off. Their safety becomes all encompassing and our reality is mired in dependence on us: we now must learn to watch for safety of our parents.  

My own experience of caring for parents include cognitive impairment to physical limitations. Though each are challenging, both require measured thoughtfulness and careful planning. Consistently assessing physical abilities or memory loss is paramount to the care of aging parents. Unlike preschoolers, who move away from their parents and toward independence, our aging parents move closer to us adult children, towards our dependence. 

Lessons continue, mistakes are made. This is hard stuff. Takes an enormous amount of patience and love. The rewards come from within. Through the journey of parenting our parents, we begin to accept and redefine what true dependence means and how giving will lead to a more purposeful life for us and our aging parents.  

 

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