Even though I don't have kids, I enjoy reading the "Father Knows Best" posts that people have written. Today, though, I'd like to address the other end of the age spectrum: dealing with elderly parents.
I struggle with either writing or talking about this, because it always seems to come off as whiny. Yes, I understand that many people, including some of you, have lost either one or both parents. Yes, I understand that I am fortunate to still have them in my life. Believe me, doing twenty or more funerals every years leaves an impression on a person about how short life is and about how important it is to treasure the people in our lives whom we love.
Having said all that...
Dad is 91. Mom is 88. They still live in their own home. I live four hours away from them, but live in an area where being four hours away is not considered to be any big deal. My wife and I are, both by proximity and temperament, the people who are in the primary caregiving role for my parents as they age.
Mom is doing well for being 88, but you don't get to that age without having some problems. Her main one is osteoporosis, which gives her constant back pain. Also, her use of her right arm is somewhat limited because she broke a bone up near the shoulder a few years ago. She does the cooking and cleaning, and also takes care of paying the bills. She manages pretty well, but is at an age and physical condition where she could use some help. She's not about to accept any, though. Instead, she's actually taking on more responsibility than ever, because Dad.
Dad is in good physical health in some ways, but again, you don't get to that age without problems. His leg strength is going, to the point where he can just barely get out of his chair. He has a variety of cushions piled on his chair to help him, which only works to a limited extent. Sometimes Mom has to help him out of it, which is bad for her back, of course. But he refuses to even discuss getting a lift chair, and nearly threw a fit when we suggested looking into the matter. "I don't need any d----d invalid chair" is the way I believe he put it. So he stays in his chair as much as possible, which is not good for him and also means that Mom has to do nearly everything for him.
His driving is another issue. He does not drive out of town any more, although he still maintains that he could and one of these days just might try it. He continues to drive in town, going down the street at about seven miles an hour. He probably shouldn't, but we've chosen not to make an issue of it because a) it would lead to a huge fight, b) it's a town of about 800 people, so people watch out for him and he's not in anyone's way for very long, and c) since Mom doesn't drive, they'd be totally housebound if he didn't, since there's no public transportation. He sees well enough to stay on his side of the street, so we keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.
Because Dad doesn't drive out of town, though, Mrs. A and I have to take them to out-of-town doctor appointments (there is a small clinic in town, but anything serious requires at least a forty-five minute drive). We don't mind doing that, but given the distance, it's at best a full day's round trip for us and, depending on the time of their appointment, sometimes two days. Again, we don't mind doing it, and we make they clear to them, but they still feel it's an imposition on us to ask and so don't make out-of-town doctor appointments unless absolutely necessary. This is in keeping with Dad's general theory of wellness, which is "If I don't admit that something's going wrong, then it isn't."
They are getting by, for now, thanks to some good neighbors and the grace of God. It's not hard to see troubles coming, though. One of these days Dad's not going to be able to get out of the chair at all, and there's no way Mom can lift him. They are both dead set against ever going into a nursing home or even an assisted living place. I don't want them to go to one, either, but if Dad can't get out of his chair I'm not sure what their options are going to be.
They both refuse to discuss that eventuality, so I guess we have no choice but to wait until the time comes and deal with it then. They also refuse to discuss what's going to happen after one of them is gone. Mom could live by herself (at this point, at least), but because she doesn't drive and there's no public transportation, she'd either be dependent on neighbors to take her places or be housebound. Dad could not live by himself, but I'm not sure he'll be willing to admit that. So, again, I guess we have no choice but to wait until the time comes and deal with it then.
Meanwhile, Mrs. A's parents are warming up in the bullpen. Again, by proximity (about an hour away) and temperament, we are likely to be their primary caregivers as well. Mrs. A's Dad is 83 and her Mom is 78. Her Dad is in good health for that age, but again, problems are looming. Her Mom is having a problem with the feeling in one of her legs, and one gave way on her last week and caused her to fall and break her arm. So, with a broken arm and a leg she's not supposed to use, she's not able to do much, which means Mrs. A has been spending a lot of time in their town for the past week and may be doing so for a while.
So there you have it. I'm not sure why I bothered you guys with all this, other than there's really no one else I can tell it to. I hope it didn't come across as whiny, because that's not how I mean it. Again, we are grateful that we still have both sets of parents in our lives. But it comes with its own set of circumstances, which are not always easy to deal with.
Anyway, if you're still reading, thanks. I don't really expect anyone to have any solutions or anything. I guess I just needed to get it out of my system. We'll do our best, and we'll carry on. That's about all any of us can do.