For the past couple of months, our focus here at Intersections has been on parental caregiving — recipes and kids’ crafts, family activities and workshops. But as I was browsing through the Alzheimer’s and elder care resources at the FCO library last week, I was reminded again of the challenges that are specific to caregiving for the elderly or the unwell.
Aging and illness
I say “again” because before starting my work-study term with the FCO, I used to proofread transcripts for small claims court. I won’t expand on the details, obviously, but cases generally dealt with an injury and the resulting caregiving. Week after week, transcripts would come in about completing rehab exercises, applying for insurance, organizing multiple appointments daily, helping with eating, with showering, with cooking, with cleaning….
The lists of tasks seemed to go on and on, and despite trying to be professional about it — my job was to simply proofread a transcript and move on to the next one — I wondered how the people involved weren’t overwhelmed. After all, the effects of illness didn’t stop at these injured deponents (who were often caregivers themselves); the deponents had their own families who juggled multiple responsibilities along with caregiving.
The job also made me reconsider the situation and the dynamics of my family. I don’t just mean that I found myself worrying about car accidents or slip and falls (though I worried about that, too) but that I began to think about how workloads were distributed among us. Who paid for what, who bought groceries, who did errands, who did the cooking, the cleaning, the nursing when necessary — and how would these things change as my parents aged, or if (god forbid) one of us became chronically ill?
Those are questions I find myself circling again and again. My parents are in their mid forties and late fifties, and while they’re in good health and far from retirement, I know that can eventually change. I’ve tried to bring it up a few times, but the topic can seem unnecessarily pessimistic (“Why do you think about these things?” asked one of my siblings, bewildered at my questions).
Our family will eventually have to figure out how to approach such a delicate topic without going into worrywart mode or diminishing our parents’ abilities in any way — after all, whatever happens in the future, right now they’ve still got years before even hitting retirement age. And I don’t want them to feel like I’m dismissing their ability to work or achieve goals just because I want to talk about the future.
And there lies my confusion, I guess. I want to ensure that as my parents age their quality of life doesn’t diminish, but I fear that talking about elder care will lead to hurt feelings or hurt relationships. Where do I start? I’m not sure yet, but I’ve been reading about “the talk” (on sites found thanks to Google, of course) and I’ve been looking at the links the FCO provides about senior care.
If you’re thinking about elder care, or have started to have a conversation around elder care, how did you go about it?