Aging. Something nobody likes but considering the other option, we'll take it.
There are two kinds of aging. Primary and secondary.
This is where we get to curse or bless our genes. The preordained coding our bodies have no choice but to follow. Genetics rule. You may get to be 80 with a full head of hair. Or no varicose veins. Or else. . .
This is where we get to curse or bless ourselves. Where we get to share some responsibility. Because our choices can slow down secondary aging. Not stop but make a difference.
You know the drill. Healthy diet, no smoking, exercise, active lifestyle. All the things we know but find hard to do.
So what does aging look like? Nobody knows what “normal aging" looks like. For one thing, it would be better if society didn't bow down to youth. You know the score.
Wherever we look, we see young people. Throughout all of media. Now, when the top magazines do a photo-layout of some celebrity, they feel the need to photo-shop.
The star's a little bit thinner, the skin a little tighter, not a blemish to be seen and no wrinkles. What? She's 50 if she's a day. Come on. Do they really want us to believe she doesn't have crow's feet?
So how does it feel for your aging parent? They see and feel the lack of respect for our elderly. Even doctors frequently misdiagnose because their complaints are considered “normal".
Our parents are forever being assaulted by the worship of youth. As they struggle to cope with the changes in their lives.
The actual age of your parent has to be considered. They can't be lumped into one category because there are segments in the older population.
1) 65-74 years. Considered “young-old".
2) 75-84 years. These are the “middle-old"
3) 85 +. . years. Now they are “old-old"
You have to keep in mind that each segment grew up in different times. They've had unique life experiences. Of course, they are not going to hold the same world view. Or think alike.
Now the parent-child relationship is changing as they become more dependent on you. Can you imagine how it must feel for the parent who was once vibrant and in total control of their lives?
They now watch as they become more frail and vulnerable. Unless they have dementia, they remember what it felt like before. This is the major blow. To their self-esteem and their day-to-day life.
As caregivers, we need to be mindful of what our parents are going through. Providing emotional support with their transition will pay dividends to both of you.
For whatever reason, many people think the elderly all live in nursing homes. But, it's only about 4% of the population at any given time.
The majority still live in their own homes or with relatives. It's family and friends who provide the biggest amount of caregiving.
So as a caregiver to an aging parent, you are not alone. It really does help if you can see how the process looks through your parent's eyes.
(c) 2007 Karen Cook
For more caregiving information, drop by http://incareofparents.blogspot.com
Karen Cook works in a Public Library where she helps caregivers locate resources. Karen, as an “only child", was sole caregiver to her mother, who resided with her until her death in 2006.