Aging Parents: Changing Birthday Plans and Flexibility

Adult children of aging parents need to be flexible. I doubt that’s a surprise to any reader. With busy lives, changing plans can have a domino effect. But when it’s an elderly parent who’s doing the changing, we abide by her wishes if humanly possible.

Sr. Advisor R, (my mother-in-law) still “calls the shots” and will continue to do so as long as her mind is good. We decided years ago If it’s a choice between her living longer and being angry and resentful (as opposed to feeling good because she still feels in charge) as long as life and limb aren’t threatened, she’s in charge.

She wanted no 101st birthday party this month–not even the usual family birthday dinner. My husband and I offered to take her to the beach overnight. She used to love that. (Bad idea, she doesn’t want to go anyplace anymore where she must pack and unpack.) But her idea of an hour’s drive to the mountains, just the three of us for a change of scenery–and lunch–sounded good….until she changed her mind.

She was concerned it would be too long of a day to go to the mountains because her energy is in short supply. Instead she suggested dinner at her favorite place, about 15 minutes from her home, adding she’d be glad to make the reservation…for the three of us. Without asking, I will phone and have a special, small birthday cake made for the occasion.

We all need to feel competent, no matter our age, and I’m guessing we need some sort of purpose for getting out of bed each day, especially when we get old.  Sr. Advisor R has no doubt already made the dinner reservation. I, on the other hand (as probably most of us) have a list of “to-do’s” facing me when I awaken each morning. I tend to feel incompetent if I can’t get through it. Cake ordering is on that list.

Tomorrow, after an early morning board meeting in another town, then lunch with a 95-year-old whose birthday luncheon we couldn’t attend, followed by errands and visiting a friend before boarding the commuter train to take me back to NYC, will be full. Regardless, I must make/find time to order that cake!

It won’t make me feel any more competent. But this 101st birthday needs something to make it a little more special. Ordering a beautiful and delicious little cake is the best we’ll be able to do….We’re fine with that. I’m sure R will be too.

Check out: “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some fun stuff–to help parents age well.

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