Bereavement, Elder Care

Musings after the death of my grandmother

Written By Shannon Salisbury

I just returned from a trip home to Ottawa for the holiday long weekend. This was the first time I’d been home since my grandmother’s funeral in June, and it was … different. My mom, in particular, has changed. She seemed lighter this weekend, much less tired. Her face was less pinched, and her body language was much more open. She was more relaxed than I’ve seen in several years. Younger, even.

My mother had been the primary caregiver for my grandmother these last few years. She did everything she could to ensure that Grandma lived as independently as possible right to the end. Grandma lived alone in her own apartment in a condo building until she was 94, and my mom was the reason this was possible. She was there several times a week to make sure Grandma got out of the house to run her own errands. She found a family doctor willing to make house calls to reduce the walking strain on her knees. One of my aunts also provided a significant amount of care, and between the two of them, Grandma was well cared for, and lived with dignity. She lived all but the last 9 months of her life independently, and was still sharp as a tack and doing whatever she could for herself in a nursing home until the week before she died. She even went to the local casino two days before the heart attack that hastened her death.

And that’s great. But Grandma dying at 94 means that her children are in their 60s, and dealing with their own health and aging issues. The reality of our aging population is that traditions of adult children caring for their elderly parents are becoming a lot more complicated. As the adult child of parents who may need the kind of support my mother spent years offering my grandmother, it’s time for me to start thinking about what that’s going to look like. How do you care for aging parents? How do you care for yourselves at the same time?