One of my favorite people in the world is my 89 year old grandmother and as she gets up there in age, I'm beginning to wonder what the best method of care is as we get older. It's different living with someone who's elderly, an eye-opening front row seat to what will happen when we get older, how dependent we will be on our loved ones or other people.
I always thought that I would be taking care of my parents as they get on in age, but I never really considered what taking care of will mean. I figured that it would be the just one kind of care... I never figured that there would be different kinds that could make a huge difference in the lifestyle we afford our elderly but that each option is meant with the same kind of love and attention.
Do we for example, really push for our grandparents to keep on going, to make sure they are medically fit at all times, to push them to be active and exercise all the muscles they can possibly can until they can't? This is with the thought that pushing them to be as active as they can will ensure that they make use of their proper faculties for as long as they are able. But... the downside is that that's a lot of stress and attention for an elderly person and exhausting for something that is just plain living.
Or do we just try to make them as comfortable as possible, make thing as easy as can be for our elderly so life is comfortable and life is as painless as we let them before they go? THe downside for that is just trying to make living easier for them means a lot of shortcuts that could be cutting short the life we're trying to make comfortable. All the medical tests and exercise and physical care you could be stopping just to make their lives stress-free could be the very thing that shortens the time we have with them.
I never realized how many dilemmas are in store for us when it becomes our turn to care for our parents. You'd think that those two options should be clear when all you have to do is ask our elderly what they do want... but sometimes you just don't get that option. Sometimes, the strain of getting older takes such a toll on a body that the mental faculties make that decision aren't there anymore. And when that happens, you're stuck in a difficult dilemma, made even more awful by the fact that these are decisions that aren't completely rational or completely emotionless... because they are our parents or grandparents and we've spent most of our lives relying on them for their guidance and decision-making. And then suddenly, you're the one making the decisions and this is one of the biggest decisions of your life. That the way you decide on the care of your parents can have a huge impact on their lives.
If there were only an easy textbook answer or a ready-made formula to balance both. I know what I would prefer but it's not the choice everyone would make.
One of the things that's maturing me is seeing how dependent you get on other people as you age. That all the things you take for granted, all the things you've literally done since you were 2-3 years old are just so difficult to do. That standing up would take another person or that going anywhere requires you to call someone else for help. I think I'm a pretty independent person and to know that that might be something I'd face in the future is a bitter pill to swallow.
I guess the one good thing about this is knowing that I can ease this burden for my kids or grandkids when it's my turn. To be clear about how I want to live my life when I can't make all the decisions when that time comes. To some extent, I'd like to be the parent and call the shots for as long as I can, not because I want to be controlling but because I don't want my kids to have a difficult dilemma to decide when my time comes. I'd still want to be the parent and shield my kids from the heavy decisions.
Abbi is a petite human, blogger, amateur photographer, permanent humanitarian, avid traveller, culture addict, giant bookworm and impossible foodie.