In fact, I’d say raising a parent is not unlike raising an unruly teenager, forever. Ours is the first generation to experience the sandwich effect because our parents are living longer than theirs did. Our grandparents passed of natural causes in their late sixties or early seventies so our parents didn’t have to deal with Dementia, Alzheimer’s or just plain old age and the perils that come with it. Homecare was never as necessary and wait lists for long term care, never as long.
As children we worship our parents because they provide us with the essentials of life, and few if any, demands are made of us, cause we’re just kids. Then the teen years hit and suddenly we have chores that seriously conflict with our slackin’ off time. We now barely tolerate the same old corny jokes, cringe when a parent engages in conversation with our friends, and spend countless hours rolling our eyes and questioning how we could’ve been born to such squares. How’d we survive it?
Then come the adult years and with them responsibility, financial woes, and job stress. We now have children of our own to raise, giving us a new perspective on parenting and surprisingly, a new appreciation for our own parents. They offer help with babysitting, shower grandchildren with love and attention, and provide an empathetic shoulder when we need it.
All too soon though, they age, such that they can no longer help the way they once did. In fact, they now need help, hence we become the sandwich generation, and we step up to the task because we haven’t forgotten all that they did for us over a lifetime.
My parents are both still alive and in their late eighties. My mother, who is in advanced stages of Dementia, had to go to long term care several months ago, leaving my father suddenly very much alone. He struggled with the loneliness, and guilt drove him to visit her daily even though he hated where she was. He vacillated between sadness for the loss of her mind, and anger at a God that would allow such deterioration, and worry about his state of mind became our (his children) number one concern.
We rotated calling and visiting to ensure he was alright and tried to involve him in our lives where possible but he was still a lost soul, and we were hard pressed to know how to fix it. He had no enthusiasm for anything. He’d wear the same clothes day after day and cared little about the state of his appearance or his home. How many seniors have the gumption to overcome this?
My father is a man of strong character and thankfully, he is also a realist. He eventually accepted what was and decided it was time to make a life of his own, without my mother. He applied to a seniors residence that housed people of the same ethnic background, and it was the call advising an apartment was available that would see the sun rise in his life again.
The children and grandchildren stepped up to help with the move and it’s a good thing they did because he could never have managed this alone. Once the strong father and head of the household, he was now frail and unable to manage something so physically taxing as a move so while he couldn’t do much to help with the relocation of his household, he did manage to muster up a renewed enthusiasm for his future.
He took an interest in his new apartment, hanging pictures with care and planning his balcony garden. He now takes pride in his appearance, throwing out his tired old jeans and making use finally, of his dress slacks and colourful shirts. He has renewed acquaintance with friends he knew from the homeland, many of whom reside in the same complex, joined a choir he and my mother belonged to years ago, and even registered to participate in a couple of seniors outings. In short, he began to live again. He still visits my mother and he still misses her but when he comes home, he’s no longer alone and depressed. He plays some of his favourite old albums on the stereo, pours himself a glass of wine and plans his activity for tomorrow because tomorrow now gives him something to look forward to.
He is currently planning to throw a house warming party for some of his fellow residents and is happily planning his menu; salt herring, rye bread and booze, so for the moment he is good. They’re all over eighty so we don’t have to worry about anyone drinking and driving (the only vehicles they drive now are walkers) so our only risk here is a potential noise infraction cause most are hard of hearing so that polka music will be turned up nice and loud. After 88 years we have finally raised our father to where we want him to be – happy, and at peace, but it was a long road…cause it’s not easy raising a parent!