Friday, October 30, 2015

"Getting Old Isn't for Sissies"

             My mother often repeated with wry resignation Bette Davis’s famous quip as my parents faced the challenges of aging. The saying became my mom’s mantra in the early days of my parents’ move to our home over two years ago. We felt led to take them in—although at the time we had no inkling how much my mom’s Alzheimer’s had progressed, how much my dad’s heart and physical pain had worsened, or how much their living conditions on their own had deteriorated. My husband and I worked hard to give them a happy home and to improve their standard of living. With numerous errands and doctors’ visits, we enabled my father to get help with his heart, hearing, and eyesight. As my mother increasingly faltered with completing daily living tasks, we hired caregivers, who assisted several times a day. Last winter crawled by with the challenges of harsh weather and harsher sickness. Over the spring, I began visiting assisted living facilities—nine in all—just in case we were no longer able to give my parents the care they needed. Despite all the emotional and physical stresses of sharing our home with them, I was determined to make it at least two years.

            We passed the two-year benchmark the end of May, but my mom’s “descent into the darkness” of Alzheimer’s has relentlessly progressed. Meeting her basic daily needs requires more help than we can provide, and so we painfully and prayerfully made the decision that the time had come for my parents’ move to an assisted living facility. Of the nine I had visited, the one I thought best for them actually had an opening. I am so thankful that some terrible crisis did not precipitate the decision to move them.  However, once we made the decision, we had to move rapidly, and the past few weeks have been physically and emotionally exhausting.

            I have mixed emotions: sadness that we couldn’t take them to the end, but immense relief from the day to day pressure of ensuring their safety and comfort. I know many of my generation are facing these same difficulties and decisions with their aging parents; and even though my parents are currently being well cared for, we will continue to face even more difficulties and decisions in the days to come. I am also considering what lies ahead for my husband and me, aware that we are almost senior citizens ourselves. Before too long, our own children will have to meet these same challenges in dealing with us.  I must choose not to worry about the future, but rather trust that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

 My mom no longer quotes Bette Davis. I don’t think she can even remember the saying now, but I still can. It resonates with me more than ever: truly, “getting old isn’t for sissies.”