The job of caretaking your aging parents is one that is bittersweet. Aging is rarely kind to any living being, bringing with it a host of ailments, both emotional and physical; and yet, learning to refocus the grief or fear you may be feeling during this time of flux is worth the effort.
When Josephine began coming to see me, her active, elderly mother, who’d always lived on her own nearby, was just beginning to slow down. Mom was experiencing multiple falls, one of which had just led to a broken shoulder.
Josephine knew the time had come for Mom’s house to be sold and for the two women to finally live together—a change she was absolutely dreading. (This hesitancy had to do with Josephine fearing she’d feel crowded or “mothered” in her very own home, someplace she’d been happily living on her own for years.)
But the move-in went far better than Josephine had anticipated. The pair were enjoying one another’s company tremendously and making plans for future travel. Sadly, however, the reason for Mom’s falls was soon diagnosed: she had an aggressive brain tumor and died peacefully in her sleep, in the new bedroom she’d helped to decorate at Josephine’s, just one year after having moved in with her daughter.
Josephine’s positive takeaway was the blissful year the pair had shared. They’d watched television together each night, they chatted, crafted, laughed etc. Mom was one of the rare examples of an elderly person in failing health whose upbeat mood never dimmed, and Josephine was so glad to have had this time with her mom. While she grieved for the short period of time in which they actually were together in one home, the year was easy on both women. Every day they spent together was a good one. Mom never suffered, she was never in pain, and she was never fearful.
Though not easy initially, our conversations together helped Josephine find peace in the positives of the entire experience and the comfort it had brought to her Mom.
Through my work helping members of the sandwich generation to navigate the rough waters of eldercare, I’ve helped caretakers learn to:
- Strengthen boundaries with others
- Release and bury feelings of guilt
- Prioritize self-care
- Learn to see others with more compassion
Nearly every one of us can learn to find the blessings we’re given during these challenging times. Sometimes, an overwhelmed and over-worked caregiver simply needs help in learning where he or she needs to look.
If I can be of help to you or your own family during this time of transition, please get in touch with me. There’s no need to walk this road alone.
All the best,
Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph. D.