“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” ~ Exodus 20:12
This article is not for everyone. Today’s article is about aging parents. The road that I went down with my parents affects to a very large degree both who I am today and how I look at this subject. Some of you have been down very different roads with your parents. It is possible that some of you didn’t have a good relationship with one or both of your parents and that affects the road you travel as your parents age.
I also had the privilege of working for several years with aging people in the very last stage of their lives…in Nursing Homes, in their homes, and in homes of family members. Families have come together, and families have been pulled apart as they face the realities of aging parents.
“Death by the inch” is what someone called Alzheimer ’s disease and sudden death by heart failure or accident also happens. All of us will die someday and we all know that. I’ve had discussions on which was the “best” way to die, or how we would prefer to see our own death, back when I was in my thirties and forties and was young and didn’t know it. There is much about that last stage of our lives that we don’t get to decide, but we can decide how we will react.
I have decided that there is no easy way to let go of your loved one. With Dad, it was sudden. A heart attack while in a hospital ICU, and there was nothing that could be done. With Mom, it was prolonged… watching her no longer able to live by herself, then enjoying the first years of assisted living, then choosing her own Nursing Home, then the cancer, then hospice care. Then, after the funeral feeling a tinge of guilt because I felt relieved that she was no longer suffering.
Some families have promised their loved one, “We will never put you in a Nursing Home.” Some have felt a great burden as their loved one needed more care that they were able to provide. This is not an article in defense of Nursing Homes; however, I can honestly say that for my Mom, it was “home” to her. I have nursing friends who genuinely care for their nursing home residents. Staff from Mom’s nursing home took one whole row in the church at her funeral.
How do you honor your father and your mother in their golden years? First, realize that the golden years might not turn out to be as nice as we hoped. Growing old is not for wimps, according to Billy Graham. Second, try to honor their feelings even if you are not able to honor all their wishes. A listening ear goes a long way toward making peace in difficult situations. Honoring a person can include making some very hard decisions so that our parents have the care that they need. Third, don’t run away. I thought about the saying, “what goes around comes back around,” and “be nice to your children, they will pick out your nursing home.” For your own benefit hang in there with your parents. There are few “do-overs” and I hope you will be at peace with yourself for the way you care for and honor your parents as they age, and as Paul put it in Ephesians 6:2, it “is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you.”
I close this article with a heartfelt thank you for taking care of your aging parents and other loved ones. Take care of yourself as you take care of them.