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Friday, March 25, 2011

When your parents run like your children.

At a certain point in life some of us will inevitably deal with providing “basic nurturing needs” for both our children and our parents, at the same time.  And it will become very obvious that the needs of both are similar, if not the same.  We discover that the heart, the mind and the soul of an aging parent is not all that different than the heart, the mind and the soul of a child.

Both need encouragement, both need constant care and most importantly both need unconditional love.  Neither is a light responsibility.

In 1996 Hilary Clinton made famous the ancient African Proverb "It takes a village to raise a child." The proverb is from Igbo and Yoruba regions of Nigeria and the basic meaning is that raising a child is a communal effort. It is meant that the responsibility lies not only with the parents, but also with the extended family and in some cases the community.

I would venture to say that the same holds true for caring for our elderly parents.  A family is not alone in this.  There are numerous sources for families to turn to in every community; the Visiting Angels, the Visiting Nurses, licensed home caregivers, excellent geriatricians and fortunately watchful neighbors.  These services are undeniably invaluable.

Having said this, there is one considerable difference between the rearing of a child and the caring for an elderly parent.  With a child you have time, hopefully many years to love and guide them.  With a parent, time is scarce.  As a result decisions are instantaneous, judgement calls are made daily and emotions run the gambit.  So, if I can leave one caveat for my peers who may face such a situation:  Time is not on your side.

Therefore, use all the resources that are available to you.  Increase your understanding and tolerance of aging diseases.  And, make sure as a family information is shared and discussed and decisions are made based on the quality of life, not the quantity.

And the most important thing to remember in any family - laugh when you get the chance and try to see humour in difficult situations.