Do We Expect Too Much of Aging Parents?

Why Some Make the Effort, While Others Don’t

This was discussed over dinner with Senior Advisor, 98-year-old R, at a restaurant the other night. She highlighted how much harder it is to do every-day things with each passing year and the discipline and mental motivation involved–even for those who have (to use her mother’s term) “a good head on their shoulders.”

R was talking about the outstanding physical therapy she received for her broken hip in the rehab center a year ago, making it possible for her to get back to “normal”–albeit now with cane now, didn’t use one before. For more about Sr. Advisor, R, click tab above, hover over R.

R reiterated she’d rather make whatever effort it takes to live out the rest of her days without needing someone to care for her.  She said that fact coupled with ingrained discipline and an awareness that things don’t come easy, taught by her parents, account for her ability to remain independent and live alone. (No help other than a cleaning woman every two weeks.) I do believe it also accounts for her good health and successful recovery from surgeries and illnesses over the years.

R recounted not understanding why some in her rehab center physical therapy group made little or no effort to do the exercises properly after breaking a hip. Granted it was hard work…sometimes required more effort than she thought she could make, but she knew it was necessary to regain independence. Indeed it paid off.

The obituary of a patient from the rehab center who was mentally “sharp” but wouldn’t make the effort, according to R, had been in the paper. She’d known this person–a “lovely woman”–many years. R’s take: She was “spoiled” all her life and just couldn’t push herself to do all the exercises–which of course no one could do for her…a shame.

People change, not much,” a quote used in my previous posts, was our conclusion as we asked:
–Can we expect someone who never was a self-starter to initiate–be it friendships, advocating for him/herself, or whatever?
–Can we expect people who were undisciplined all their lives to be disciplined enough to do difficult things that are now in their best interest?
–Can we expect people who were basically disorganized to make a “to do” list and accomplish what’s necessary for their well-being?

These questions have implications for older people’s daily requirements, some as seemingly simple as taking medications on schedule.

Whereupon R asked the bigger question: Can adult children, in a respectful way (her emphasis), fill in to mitigate those “deficiencies” that become life changers due to aging?… And cause more problems for everyone?

Clearly we can’t do certain things for aging parents (eg. exercising). But we can educate ourselves (ie. ask their doctors) about products that help (eg. medication reminders) and be their cheerleaders (or have our children be their cheerleaders) when motivation is involved.

Bottom line: We probably do expect too much of aging parents. We all have deficiencies–they may be benign in younger people but life-altering in older people.  Identifying them in aging parents and compensating when possible can help parents age well–or as well as possible.

HELP! Aging Parents was nominated for “Best of the Web” 2012 and was first runner-up in the “blogs by individuals” category. Thanks to everyone who has found HELP! Aging Parents helpful and supported us. 

2 thoughts on “Do We Expect Too Much of Aging Parents?

  1. It is such a hard process to watch. I’ve been watching my parents go through this with my grandmother and it’s been challenging for everyone involved. I saw a segment on Good Morning America about a book called Baby Boomer’s Guide to Caring for Aging Parents. I’m planning on getting it for my parents to help them with all of the things that need doing now that Grandma isn’t able to do a lot of things herself. Sounds like a great resource for how to get through things. http://www.babyboomereldercare.com

    • Thanks for mentioning the book, Emily. Sounds good. I’ll check it out also, hoping adjusting expectations is addressed in depth. Your grandmother is fortunate to have a granddaughter as sensitive to aging as you are. Wishing all of you the best. Susan

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