Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: First (as in original) (01/10/05)
TITLE: Aging Siblings with Aging Parents
By Cyndy McNaul-Nelson
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Married couples or singles that have remained childless struggle with the emotions of never conceiving when they reach the forty-year mark. Resolving the issue of no descendants or extended family from one’s own bloodline takes people through a grieving process that restores one’s emotional health.
These steps are inevitable and must be thoroughly traveled to successfully maintain healthy emotions, which leads to healthy relationships with family. As one pilgrimages through the forty-decade, one isn’t thinking of the demise of their parents, should they be so blessed to have parents around.
My dilemma comes, because I have attained the half-century mark and have traveled through the pilgrimage of the forty-decade. I’ve made my peace with barrenness and remaining childless. Being one of the siblings closest to the folks in miles gives me the advantage and time to spend with aging parents, lending assistance when asked.
I am a retired nurse and the oldest of eight aging siblings with aging parents. I’ve taken care of hundreds of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and out of all the people that suffer from different levels of memory loss, fifty percent of those cases are due to Alzheimer’s. From working with many families whose loved ones have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s to reading the books for step by step discussions with family members, I started the topic about our aging parents.
The discourse started and remained civil, but with a minor disagreement. The books don’t give directions when there is disagreement within family ranks. Each submitted their opinion, including our parents. I wanted to make sure the folks were aware of and included in on our conversations about them and us. My parents know they are old, and Mom knows she forgets things once in a while, but they are still farming full time at their ages of 70 and 73 years. The folks check on Grandpa, who at the age of 96 has a sharp mind and still lives on his farm.
While the folks are checking on Grandpa, the folks are dealing with offspring discussing them as aged. My younger siblings are starting their own “life review”, as we discuss aging parents, which is needed with half the siblings out of state and the other half around home. Dealing with the word death, Alzheimer’s, living wills and guilt for being far from home are truly disconcerting.
The “life review” process is for these very issues, to prepare oneself with the aging pilgrimage. It allows us to be in touch with each other, giving support to one another as we travel this road as a family. We siblings are being pruned and strengthened emotionally for whatever the future holds for us.
The minor disagreement comes at what point do we ask Mother to be tested for Alzheimer’s so that medications could be started, delaying the disease’s advancement should a diagnosis be made. Mom was an orphan adopted into a not so loving environment. She was constantly berated, being told she would go crazy and die in a mental institution like her biological mother. (Disproved after she found her family.) That has been the nagging notion she fought and battled all her life. I’ve assured her through the years; she would live out her days in her own home.
I don’t want to push her into the doctor’s office until Mother has faced her final monster from a painful past. When she has faced that part of her “life review”; then we can ask her. And I don’t want Dad, who married our widowed Mother after our biological father died at the age of 34, to think we don’t approve of the care he has given our mother.
Truly it is a balancing act to consider everyone’s feelings in this pilgrimage, while our family deals with three generations of aging. It is my first dilemma dealing with immediate family in this process, all the while knowing that our God is in control preparing us for the best of our future.
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