A Primer for Adult Children of Aging Parents or “I Won’t Let You See Me”
Here is what you won’t see when you visit me: a cluttered home, unsafe walkway, stuff on the steps, my meds at different levels or out of date, bills laying around and unpaid, multiple charitable receipts. I won’t appear disheveled or smell funny or over perfumed, I will be fresh as a daisy. My hair will look fabulous, carefully done. Long sleeves will hide that gash on my arm. You won’t find expired old or moldy food in the refrigerator. My stuffy house will have the scents of holiday cooking and baking…
You see, it takes me a little longer these days to think of all the details, to plan and get it all done. I actually began my To-Do lists one day last fall! I have a lot more time on my hands than my Sandwich Generation children do, what with their careers and my grandkids’ activities. They are all coming here, just like every year. Can’t wait to be with everybody!
But I will not let you see a number of things that might indicate I am in decline. I have been planning and cleaning and stuffing since November.
Don’t waste your time looking at my medications. You will never find all of them; I am that good (at hiding). “Of course I take them regularly. Piece o’ cake.” I realize that as adult children of aging parents you are going to try to “talk” to me about how I am doing. Can’t we just visit and chat about something else?
My checkbook is tucked away too. Why, you wonder? Because it gets dark earlier these days, and I am inside, answering my phone. I may donate to the same outfit more than one time if they call me more than one time. I may have more than one check in my register to the same charity (that check register is Off Limits). I consider it too much of a hassle to call and verify legitimacy of that nice young man on the phone…. Why, he knew my neighbor’s name and address, he said it to me! We had a nice long chat. I felt good about sending in that donation, and he is going to call me again during their next campaign.
So what if there are a few extension cords lying around and things are kind of cramped in the family room. We plug in extra lights during the holidays, right? And who doesn’t rearrange during the holidays to accommodate extra guests? The furniture arrangement is not so odd; I will never admit to it but I hold on to it as I walk through the room these days. It gives me extra stability since I fell. And you didn’t know that, either, do you? I had quite the bruiser on my arm and hip for a few weeks, but of course there was no reason to mention it when we were talking on the phone. You’d never see it; you live clear across the country.
If it’s one thing I do remember, it’s your favorite foods. Got ‘em all here, ready. I don’t eat that much anymore but the grandkids will. Nowadays it’s normal for me now to simply have a bowl of cereal, sometimes even more than once a day. It’s convenient, especially when I haven’t gotten out to the market (and certainly not after that last fall, I was down a couple of days after that one).
I read an article that older people can lose their sense of taste and smell and then use too much salt. Since I know about this I won’t over season your food. Better yet, I will place festive Salt & Peppers at either end of the table and make small talk about not knowing how everyone liked their food seasoned (like I haven’t since you were born, ha!). Tom’s gained weight; I will tell him I am being sensitive to his high blood pressure.
Of course the frig will be stocked with extra holiday food, so things will look good around here. “You simply must take the leftovers, why, I will never eat it all!” If I really have my wits about me I will have the snacks set out that the church brought by last week. “Oh yes, I have a number of friends around here. Neighbors stop by all the time.” No isolation here.
Even if I didn’t attend recently, I will have the church bulletin they left for me. I will leave it lying around, a current one at that. If it has an activity or project story in it, all the better. I will be ready to tell you what’s up at the church (that I haven’t felt like going to even when Brenda calls to offer a ride).
Would you like to know why I am this way? I lived alone since your father died, and I have managed to get along okay. Things are a bit more difficult but I have the time and the smarts to get them done, I always say. With a little ingenuity and finagling I will survive. I do miss Janice though.
She was my neighbor for over 30 years. We’ve been through a lot together, raising our kids, seeing them marry and then we both waited for and welcomed grandkids. Janice’s family visited last Christmas and not long after that they moved her out to Kansas City to be with them. The last time I talked to her she’d recently been at the emergency room and was going to a rehab. She has never returned my last call.
All in all, I’m just fine here. We don’t “need a plan.“ I don’t want my kids to make me go to a lawyer, and I don’t want them meddling in my finances. I don’t quite understand all that, but I pray that Jim left me enough to keep me going. If there isn’t, I don’t want to know. And I surely don’t want my kids to know, they’d put me in a home. I am not saying a word.
Yes, I’ve really thought about this day, the perfect day.
I have truly enjoyed our time together.
Now go home, please. I’m fine. I love you all, so very much. (Don’t forget to call me next week).
Adult children of aging parents, if you sense changes in your parents this holiday season, we can help you sort it out. What to look for, and what to do (we call it “out of the problem and into the solution”). Contact NAVIGATE NC to schedule a free initial consultation and we will dedicate time to talk with you personally.
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