Coping with Aging Parents
My Parent's Health
My mom is 50 years old, which is actually quite young by today’s standards. In my mind, she seems even younger, around 35, and I’ll probably see her that way for the rest of time. The trouble, however, is that she’s beginning to have health problems, and it’s shocking to watch as these problems begin to affect her. Even worse, I've come to the realization that she is not immortal, and as time passes, her health will likely continue to decline.
These facts are hard to swallow. In fact, lately it feels like they've gotten stuck in my throat.
To be specific, my mom is having a hard time walking. I have no idea what’s causing this, but the fact remains nonetheless. Years ago, she began experiencing restless legs syndrome, and that, in and of itself, gave her a lot of problems. It made her quite uncomfortable in the evenings and kept her awake through the night.
Now, the restlessness has turned to pain, and she struggles to climb stairs, gets tired easily, and walks slowly. It’s not her weight; she’s thinner than ever. She has no course of relief except a heating blanket she wraps around her at night. The intense heat helps, but I worry about what she’ll do in the summer. When it’s 90 degrees outside, she won’t be able to sit under a heating blanket.
My dad is 52 and has also had some problems. His are mostly related to a car accident from 1991, but this injury that he sustained much earlier in his life is having a noticeable impact on him now. Similar to Mom, he moves more slowly and gets stiff very easily. When I was young, I always thought of him as the strongest man in the world, and he’s still strong, but not like 10 years ago. It frightens me to think of him as weak.
A Stark Reality
Watching one’s parents grow older brings a reality check. Their decline is proof – in case you needed it – that life doesn’t go on forever. You think it does when you’re a kid, but age brings with it the bitter truth. In other words, watching your parents age puts you that much closer to your own mortality. And that’s a scary feeling.
I never let on to either of them how much I worry, because I fear that would in turn make them worry. Right now, they need to stay stress-free and optimistic. My mom has been looking for a natural remedy for her legs, and she mentioned something about tart cherries to me the other day. I found some research that confirmed that others suffer from similar pain, so at least she doesn’t have some obscure disease (at least not that I know of). Some of those people also have RLS, and still others have fibromyalgia. I know my mom’s never been diagnosed with the latter, but it’s certainly a possibility.
As for my dad, he has an entire team of doctors that have offered any number of remedies for his pain. Again, the cause of this is well-known, but the real trouble is that his doctors prescribed him Vicodin, and lots of it, well before the medicine’s side-effects were known. Now we have to worry about any subsequent damage to his liver, which is a pretty frightening prospect.
I try to be as upbeat as ever with my parents. After all, these health problems have not changed who they are. But they make me nervous nonetheless, and I can’t stop worrying. So the next time I feel short-tempered with my mom, I’ll remind myself that our time on earth is limited, and that I’m lucky just to have both parents still here with me.