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Are You Taking Care of Your Elderly Parents?

Submitted by on November 1, 2010 – 8:37 am4 Comments

This essay is sponsored by the AARP en español*

My mother and her two sisters lived within three miles of their elderly parents. So, when my grandparents needed help and caregiving, my mother and Tias were close by.

My grandparents died at home. Both at the age of 90, within three years of each other. My mother and Tias got through it by taking turns doing the caregiving and hiring caregivers to stay with my grandparents when they could not.

I live in Tennessee, 900 miles from my parents in Miami, and my brother, who lives in a third state, is 1,200 miles from them. So, it is with frequency that I have wondered just what we are going to do as my parents get older — a subject my proud madre doesn’t really like to talk about.

“Don’t worry about me,’’ she said, the last time I was home in Miami.
“Que tu crees, Mam? That you will stay here? I just don’t see that happening,’’ I told her.

My father says he’s ready to ditch Miami right now, but my mother — whose sisters and cousins still live nearby — is not ready to settle in my little country town. And given our last conversation, she may never be. At least, willingly.

As adult children, we’re in a bit of a pickle, aren’t we? I can’t force my mother to do anything. And yet, if my parents are sick, or when they are older, it would be completely impossible to sleep well wondering if my parents are safe, if they are getting around OK, if a hired caregiver is being good to them.

There’s no thought of a “home’’ because, well, we just don’t do that. I’ve joked with my mom and aunts that I’ll buy a giant playpen for all three of them, just as they used for my cousins and me in the ‘60s. They don’t find that too funny.

Gracias a Dios, my parents are healthy and they are active. They still drive — a necessary in a city like Miami, but it is increasingly clear to all of us that there must be a plan in place.

But, where do we begin? And, how do you begin? How do you suddenly become the caregiver and overseer of the competent and independent people who raised you? And, how do you do that when you’re raising one of your own? Or when you’re working, planning for your own golden years?

In my family, this issue is at the forefront because my mother finally retired and it has signaled to us that a new stage of life is beginning — not just for my mother and father, but for all of us.

It is clear that long and honest conversations will be had, that research and budgeting and legalities will have to be discussed. And, while I admit to dread the conversation, I am taking heart that I am not blazing any new trails. The wisdom and advice of generations of past and current caregivers, resources available in my community, and online, will no doubt guide us into the next stage of our lives as a family.

Are you a caregiver? Do your parents live with you now, or will they one day? What plans did you make, or are you making, as you become a caregiver? What resources can you suggest or share? Advice?

* About the post sponsor:
The AARP has launched AARP en español.

The Web site has many sections of interest, with features on everything from travel to living in a home with three generations to how to do living trusts. Plus, technology, food, travel, and entertainment and links to Latino-inspired recipes by Denisse Oller, some of which include video with subtitles in English

Links of interest to the topic of caregiving:
Eight rules for New Caregivers (Spanish) The English version is here and Challenges of Caregiving  in Spanish and English. In addition, there is a Caregiving Planning Guide, and caregiving despite long distances.

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  • Melek says:

    Great post Carrie!

    Here’s a poignant piece about our aging parents … in Spanish …

    I wish you well :) Melek

    (autor desconocido)

    El día que este viejo y ya no sea el mismo, ten paciencia ,compréndeme.

    Cuando derrame comida sobre mi camisa y olvide como atarme mis zapatos, recuerda las horas que pase enseñándote a hacer las mismas cosas.

    Si cuando conversas conmigo, repito y repito las mismas palabras, que sabes de sobra como termina, no me interrumpas y escúchame.

    Cuando eras pequeño para que te durmieras tuve que contarte miles de veces el mismo cuento hasta que cerrabas los ojitos.

    Cuando estemos reunidos y sin querer haga mis necesidades, no te avergüences y comprende que no tengo la culpa de ello, pues ya no puedo controlarlas.

    Piensa cuantas veces cuando niño te ayudé y estuve paciente a tu lado, esperando a que terminaras lo que estabas haciendo.

    No me reproches porque no quiera bañarme; no me regañes por ello.

    Recuerda los momentos que te perseguí y los mil pretextos que te inventaba, para hacerte mas agradable tu aseo.

    Acéptame y perdóname. Ya que soy el niño ahora.

    Cuando me veas inútil e ignorante frente a todas las cosas tecnológicas que ya no podré entender, te suplico que me des todo el tiempo que sea necesario, para no lastimarme con tu sonrisa burlona.

    Acuérdate que yo fui quien te enseñó tantas cosas. Comer, vestirte y tu educación para enfrentar la vida tan bien como lo haces, son producto de mí esfuerzo y perseverancia por ti.

    Cuando en algún tiempo mientras conversamos me llegue a olvidar de que estamos hablando, dame todo el tiempo que sea necesario hasta que yo recuerde, y si no puedo hacerlo no te burles de mí; tal vez no era importante lo que hablaba y me conforme con que me escuches en ese momento.

    Si alguna vez ya no quiero comer, no me insistas. Se cuanto puedo y cuanto no debo. También comprende que con el tiempo ya no tengo dientes para morder, ni gusto para sentir.

    Cuando me fallen mis piernas por estar cansadas para andar, dame tu mano tierna para apoyarme como lo hice yo cuando comenzaste a caminar con tus débiles piernas.

    Por ultimo, cuando algún día me oigas decir que ya no quiero vivir y solo quiero morir, no te enfades.

    Algún dia entenderás que esto no tiene que ver con tu cariño o cuanto te ame.

    Trata de comprender que ya no vivo sino que sobrevivo, y eso no es vivir.

    Siempre quise lo mejor para ti y he preparado los caminos que has debido recorrer.

    Piensa entonces que con el paso que me adelanto a dar estaré construyendo para ti otra ruta en otro tiempo, pero siempre contigo.

    No te sientas triste o impotente por verme como me ves.

    Dame tu corazón, compréndeme y apóyame como lo hice cuando empezaste a vivir.

    De la misma manera como te he acompañado en tu sendero, te ruego me acompañes a terminar el mío.

    Dame amor y paciencia, que te devolveré gratitud y sonrisas con el inmenso amor que tengo por ti.

    Si yo te olvido, por favor no te olvides de mí…


    “All of us are born for a reason, but all of us don’t discover why. Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others.” ~ D. Thomas

  • Just like you said, sending our parents to a home is just not something we do.

    My parents live about 15 minutes away, so I’m the one that most often checks in on them. Thankfully, my mom is still strong and able to take care of things, though it’s getting harder on her with my dad having dementia. But, my brothers and I have discussed what may happen as they continue to get older and less able to be independent.

    It’s never easy, and as you mentioned, we have our own families to care for as well.
    Melanie (ModernMami)´s last [fabulousness] ..Marketing to Kids as a Parenting Tool

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