Today as I was swimming with Ed I had the chance to talk with a woman named Cathy. She told me she was widowed a little over a year ago and that she has her condo here on the market. She explained that although she is not looking forward to once again spending her winters in the north she is going to do it for a number of reasons, most of which revolve around her children.
She drives down here by herself and that makes her kids unhappy. She commented that she might as well move back near family because “her kids are going to take more and more control of her life, anyway.” That made me feel sad for her. It can be true for so many elderly people.
As they (we) grow older more and more independence is surrendered. Cathy seemed really surprised when I said that it is hard to be the “child”. I told her that I think it is difficult for the offspring to assist their elderly parents without stripping them of the most basic of choices. It’s a delicate balance between keeping them safe and taking over the parents’ lives and all decisions.
From what I’ve seen, most people don’t want to discuss the issue of long term care or living arrangements until it is actually necessary to make a decision. At that point there are usually strong emotions tied to the process and the kids are accused of being bossy and the parents stubborn.
To be sure there are no easy answers. Change is challenging. I think, however, if possible the children and parents need to have multiple talks about the wishes of the parents and what will work best for all involved.
After she talked for a while I realized that she will feel much more comfortable being in closer proximity to her kids. She knows that she needs their help for more things. As with most of life’s journey there are no easy answers or perfect solutions.
How do you view the role of adult children assisting elderly parents? If you have a thought or two please leave a comment below.