Aging Parents: Personal Story
March 10, 2013
Aging Parents: Personal Story
Struggling with an aging parent is hard enough but when you add on a parent that has a long history of denial and avoidance the struggle takes on a whole new meaning. For years you’ve known at a gut level that your aging parent is a train wreck just waiting to happen yet when you are asked to step in it is confusing, overwhelming and impossible to manage. Your childhood issues will rear their ugly head I don’t care how much therapy or how much distance you’ve put between yourself and your parent. You may not recognize the person staring back at you in the mirror. You may want to run and hide…
I want you to take heart because you are not alone!
My dad has never been an easy man. I have long suspected that he suffers from undiagnosed post-traumatic stress syndrome related to a car accident: depression, mood swings, avoidance behavior and addictions. My sister and I have learned over the years to maneuver around him in order to survive. Recently he got himself in to a pickle by avoiding signs and symptoms of a urinary tract infection (part of his deny and avoid pattern) and his life spiraled out of control until he landed in ICU with acute renal failure. I wasn’t quite prepared for the mess I found in his home when I arrived across country. Out of respect, I won’t go in to details but let me say if I had found a client living in such a mess, I would have called Adult Protective Services immediately.
Dad has miss-used alcohol for many years and now that he is older and our mom passed away it has spiraled out of control. He’s depressed and doesn’t see that things could be different or better. He seems hell bent on drinking and smoking himself to death. Of course, we (me and my sister) are caught in the middle of it and he expects us to save him which we did (this time). My sister got him in to the ER which led to his hospitalization. I flew across country and hired professionals to clean his house, was at the hospital daily to talk with doctors and worked on getting him in to the skilled nursing facility he preferred. My sister is there now continuing to get his house in order so he can come home and continue to self-neglect (hate to sound so negative but it’s hard not be guarded against what seems like inevitable disappointment).
My daughter is 9 and cried her eyes out on the phone when I was gone for that week. I missed a couple of my son’s basketball games and 2 weeks of work. My husband worked a 50 hour week and took care of the kids. My sister works a 40 hour week and drives two hours one way to help my dad. Her husband on his one day off a week is at my dad’s house laying new tiles and putting in adaptive equipment. My sister and I have both had bronchitis and are struggling with how to help our dad without losing our minds. I’m not even going to mention my sister’s high blood pressure (oops I guess I just did). Dad will not acknowledge the sacrifice we have made, he will not say please or thank you and he will go back home and pick up where he left off despite the fact that it’s killing him. I love him and although at times I get mad at him I have long ago let go of the extreme bitterness and anger that holds you down. Having said this, I’m drawing a serious line in the sand in regards to what I’m willing to do moving forward.
I wish I could say what those boundaries are at this moment but I hope and pray that when the time comes I have the courage to stand up and say “no, I’m going to do it differently”. Healthy boundaries that show I care without enabling and loosing myself. As a professional, I find myself thinking I should have a handle on the situation but the truth is I was a daughter long before I became an elder care consultant. Long before the degrees, certifications and years of helping other families I was his daughter. Sharing such a personal story with my readers is not easy but I know there are others out there in my shoes and I want to encourage everyone to take care of themselves, keep it real, make the hard choices for yourself and know you’re not alone!
Please share your experiences, ideas and insights so you may help others…