As the cost of living and health care costs continue to rise, there are a growing number of the elderly finding themselves facing giving up their independence and becoming dependent on either government assisted living or living with younger family member.
Which bring us to adding a couple of Grays to our coloring box. While I don't pretend to know all the secrets of making it work or know all the answers; I know what it feels like for us.
It's tough no matter how you try to slice it. Tough for both parties.
While I am constantly told that I don't truly no how it feels, I hear The Grays talk about a lack of independence, feeling like a burden and a consuming feel of uncertainty. Uncertain about their own place in life and what that life is going to look like in 1 year, 5 years, etc. One thing they know for certain is that life, from this point on, is not going to get any better. The years have robbed them of even being an adult anymore. Once more, as a child, they must submit their freedoms to someone else. They have to be driven to where they want to go, have help with any financial, medical or personal decisions and become totally dependent on the whims of someone else. They have to hope that the person has their best interest at heart and surrender everything that they knew. They have to worry about when they become totally helpless...is anyone going to really care for them? Will they make sure they are fed? Have their medicines? Have access to medical treatments that are necessary? Are their finances going to be safe? Will someone bathe them?
As the caretaker, its just as hard. From my own experience, it is though we have added two more children to my family. While they are not at the point of total helplessness yet, I know that one day we will be there. When making the choice to become a caretaker, it is not something you jump into. While you want more than anything to be able to provide for your parents, as they provided for you; sometimes it can break a family. All parties have to be on board for the venture and everyone must know what is going to be expected of them. This includes not only the elderly parents and their child, but the spouse, children and other family members.
Since I am a stay at home mom with my own children, the bulk of the daily care falls on me. This not only includes the making of meals, shuttling to the doctor, etc. but also the daily, sometimes hourly, assurances that The Grays are wanted and are not a burden. Thankfully, The Head Crayon is the financial guru of our family and helps them deal with all of those pesky matters. The stress falls on him as well. He has to think far into the future about the cost of them living with us, medical expenses that in the future may not be covered under their insurance, etc.
Let me be real honest with you, when I imagined my life as The Crayon Wrangler, this is not what I had envisioned, but it is something that I signed up for. When we shared our wedding vows, we shared our families and our obligations. What I am doing for his parents, he would do for mine and any other family members that might need our help. It is the obligation of family. On days when I am not frustrated, I would tell you the honest truth that it is indeed a privilege to have The Grays depend on us. To know that they feel safe counting on us, speaks volumes of their love for us and their trust in us.
One of the biggest things that we are struggling with right now is boundaries and understanding. As we are moving from partial care to full time care, we are all learning what is "fair" to expect out of each other. It's a lesson in trial and error. We have a good days and we have our bad, but one thing we have decided is we will make it work. We will honor that trust that they put in us and show through our actions our love we have for them.
Do you have a elderly parent living with you? Are you dealing with Alzheimer's in a loved one? Is this something that your family is about to face? I would love to hear from you!