Aging is a Family Affair
Aging is a Family AffairH
olidays are often a mixed bag when it comes to family. It’s wonderful seeing everybody and sharing the joys of the season, sometimes it’s the only time of the year when families are able to get together.
Often family members who haven’t seen each other for a year or more, notice how children seem to have grown dramatically, and the elderly seem to have aged significantly. Sometimes, remarks such as, “Have you noticed how tired Mom looks? or, Are you checking in on her? or, She has told me the same thing three times since we arrived! or, Have you taken her to the doctor to see why she seems so weak?” Lots and lots of questions. These questions stem from concern, but they are not always welcomed.
If a sibling, spouse or other loved one is around Mom a great deal, these changes are gradual. For those who are not, they seem dramatic. That doesn’t mean they happened overnight and that nobody is noticing or caring about the changes. Often these questions seem accusatory and result in feelings of angst and prompt defensive reactions, as if you are implying they don’t care about the aging loved one, nor are seeing to their care and needs. Many family disputes arise during the holidays over this very thing, hence increased tension, worry and stress – and it is NOT lost on the elderly. They feel like they are the cause of the problem and are even more reluctant to mention anything about how they might be feeling, or any concerns they may themselves have about their own health for fear of causing more tension. This is NOT what you want! If something is wrong or they have concerns, you want them to tell you, not keep it from you because they “don’t want to bother you with it.” How many times have we heard these words from our parents/grandparents and older adults?
Are the holidays really an appropriate time to bring any of this up? A considerate approach would be to wait until things are “back to normal” and then ask the questions in this fashion: “When we were there for Christmas, I noticed Mom seems confused, or weak, or… Is there anything I can do to help with her care?” Perhaps you can make another trip to give the caregiver some relief. Or maybe help with taking Mom in for a check up, or taking her for an outing, or even bring her to you for a visit and change of pace. The burden of caring for an elderly loved one gradually increases with time as their needs increase. Sharing that responsibility, even if it’s an offer to pay for assistance, or services, or whatever seems appropriate, can be the best gift you can give to those who are the “boots on the ground” as caregivers.
Aging is a family affair. Sharing the care is a loving thing to do for all concerned.