You know those little things that are irritating because we should take care of them–or have them taken care of–but haven’t?
–like the button from a favorite coat or sweater that we meant to sew (or have someone sew) on;
–the shoe that’s been needing a repair that we couldn’t wear the other day when we wanted to;
–the knife we’ve been meaning to sharpen or get sharpened that made a mess of cutting that tomato;
–or some battery-using device whose battery has died and not been replaced?
We adult children know we are self-sufficient and can take care of these problems at will, albeit when time in our over-busy schedule permits. We know too how good we feel when these annoyances have been taken care of.
But what about aging parents? If they don’t drive, they are dependent on others to take things for repair or replacement. If they’re old, technological malfunctions that may be a second-nature fix for younger people and grandchildren are frustrating, causing insecurity and necessitating a dependency on others.
Are we aware how often others–service people, for instance–disappoint, even if their intentions are good? And as our parents age, the people they have counted on to provide services–be they doctors, painters, tailors, plumbers—you name it–retire, move away or die.
In the olden days, families members more often than not lived in the same town and would gather once a week for a meal after church or regularly for dinner one night a week. I am told this regularly planned family get-together offered a continuity of support to older family members, giving them an opportunity to mention things that needed attention in their homes, after which one family member would volunteer to take care of the situation.
“The stress (of things that are in disrepair or not taken care of) begins to build up,” confides a widowed aging parent. “It’s hard not knowing if or when, for example, my clogged drain will be fixed.”
One of my senior advisors says that kind of stress could simply be alleviated if an adult child or another caring younger person could be counted on to come over once a week on a regular basis–for an hour even–to help take care of the simple things (and bring a container of Draino). “Just knowing that you can depend on that once-a-week visit would alleviate the stress that begins to build up,” she says.
So take note: It sounds like just an hour a week of our time–to help take care of whatever our parents might need us to do–is another way of helping older parents (as well as other older people who are special to us) age well.