There is nothing like hearing how another person is handling situations with an aging parent to give you ideas about handling similar, or even wildly different, situations with your own parent.
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When we were little, we saw our parents as invincible people, who took care, protected and loved us no matter what. They were our first heroes who were always there when we needed them. But like the rest of humankind, our parents will grow old, some even die young. My father died when he was only 58 years old while my mother is now 77 years old. For active people like my mother, aging can be difficult and life becomes more of an effort. The past few months I see her struggling more and more with her physical disabilities and accepting of the fact that this limits her social interactions outside our home. Because I am a parent too, I know what sacrifices parents make to raise their children and as a child of an aging mother, I feel that it is but fitting that I should help her have a happy and comfortable life in her twilight years.
Make Time for your elderly parents
I always try to make time for my mother. I know that we all have jobs or families or other important things to do with our time and our parents know that. My mother even now that she needs help getting around, is always very considerate of my schedule and would not ask for help unless she really needs to. Why? Because she does not want to trouble me. Something we never thought about as children. Children have a sense of entitlement and expect their parents to be always there, even for the most trivial reasons. On the other hand, parents always think of the welfare of their children first and they carry this concern till their last breath. Our parents need to be reassured that it is no trouble for us to do things for them. Try to visit them regularly, spend time talking with them, keeping them abreast with what is happening in our lives. This would make them more in tune with the times and less isolated from the world…and from us.
Anticipate their needs or wants
I remember when I was in college and living with my maternal grandmother, I would go on book sales and bought romance novels which she loved to read. The glow in her face was worth spending part of my weekend money. But it does not always have to be something material. It could be an errand, a chat, or just to tag along on your shopping and grocery trips. Sometimes just getting her out of the house for a short ride is enough.
Don’t force them to do something they don’t like
But don’t force anything on them. Sometimes our good intentions are not what they need or want. Remember that our parents are different people from us. Just as when we were teenagers and did not like doing things they thought was best, our parents also would not like to be made to do anything they don’t want to. It is proper to always ask them first and not take them for granted.
Be Patient and Kind
Our parents can get so sensitive as they aged. Perhaps the fact that they are slowly losing their independence and authority contributes to this. We should be more careful with our comments and reactions to their limitations. A few years ago, we got my mom a new cellphone and she was having difficulty using it. After almost a week of tutorials, she still could not get it and I got exasperated regrettably saying something I shouldn’t have and hurt her feelings. Of course, I made amends but I also learned that patience and kindness should be practiced at all times.
Ask for their advice
Our parents may be growing old but that does not mean they are short on wisdom. My paternal grandmother was one such person. She was only a high school graduate but her life experiences made her wise in her old age. I learned a lot from our little chats, lessons which I apply in my life to this day. Try to involve your parents when you need to make big decisions. You might be surprised with the advice you get. And by doing this, they continue to feel relevant and useful. It also does wonders for their self-esteem.
Always give our parents due respect
Whatever kind of parents we have, we should always treat them with respect. They may not have been perfect and probably even disappointed us in more ways than one, but there is no denying the sacrifices our parents made for us. Undoubtedly, their love for us is without measure.
The saddest thing about growing old is to be forgotten and to lose one’s relevance in society. We see a lot of elderly people set aside, placed in homes and basically just neglected. Our elderly parents need us. A thoughtful call, a leisurely visit, a lively chat, surely these are not much to ask for. After all, we too will grow old one day.
Maritel R. Ledesma is a mother to 2 adopted children and currently the Section Head of Bioethics of the College of Medicine, University of St. La Salle. She holds Zoology and Medicine degrees from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila and an MBA from the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod City. She has extensive experience in hospital operations and management. She is also a Fellow of the Health Leadership Manangement Program of the Zuellig Foundation. Two of her websites are http://www.iamhangingtough.com (Life, Day by Day) and http://www.silayheritage.com (My Silay Heritage).
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