#RealityCheck: Caring for Aging Parents

I seriously am not allowed to be Debbie Downer every time I get into reality with #RealityMoms.  But man alive, doesn’t reality scare you sometimes?  Someone please tell me that I’m not the only one caring for aging parents right now.

My parents are actually really young.   My mom is still in her sixties and my dad is in his early seventies.  They should not even been dealing with the struggles of growing old yet.  I’m not supposed to be crying myself to sleep at night wondering if I made a mistake moving away from home when I was eighteen in search of being more than the small-town girl that my world had assumed I would be.  My mom is not supposed to be passing on fun opportunities because she has to take care of my dad 24/7.  My sisters shouldn’t have to take a day off work once a month to be able to make sure my mom gets a day away from her around the clock job taking care of my dad.

Sometimes I wonder if my attempt to be more present in their lives is taken in vain. Ya know… like this weekend.  I’m in small town, Illinois visiting my parents. Upon arrival, I learned that there was the hometown Homecoming Day with the town and I thought it would be fun to take my kids to the parade for candy and then up to enjoy some rides.  Long story short, I was reminded why I left this tiny town when I was up at the bandstand that night.  But when I got home I could tell my mom was exhausted.  I’m glad that I got to give her a small break for the day—but that just isn’t enough for her.  How do I continue to help her as her daughter but not stifle her from her commitment she made to my dad when she married him?  It’s tough.  She doesn’t want to take my help, I think because she doesn’t want to seem ungrateful for what she has to do.

You see, my mom is VERY stubborn and set in her ways. She has a very hard time opening up her mind and realizing that this is 2016. It’s a different world than when she was raising her babies. I found myself saying that to her over and over and over. A couple of times it pissed her off – but for the most part—I think she understands what my intentions are.  I really do mean well when I try to help her.  But why do they get all defensive on us when we do try to help?

Aging parents is so tough. It really really is the toughest thing ever. No one ever tells you about what to expect either.  Of course we all hear about the aging benchmarks:  16 – driving; 18 – voting;  21 – drinking; 30 – big girl pants; 40 -better have it together; 50 – midlife crisis.  NOTHING in there about aging parents, right?  So where does that come out into the world we live in?  When do we talk about that? I mean, I have googled it enough times.  For the sake of argument—I know I’m not alone with a real research team devotes time & money to it.  77% of grown children think their parents are stubborn about taking their own advice of getting help with daily problems. That’s more than three out of four people who think that. I’m not alone!

So, my job as leader of this free world known as #RealityMoms is to bring solutions to the table for other real life problems that we deal with on a daily basis.

This is my real life problem—and here are five potential solutions.  Let me know if you’re tried these before and if you’re also struggling with it!  We can learn more from each other than we can from Google—share, comment, let’s do this together!

5 Ways to Talk Aging with Your Parents Without Causing a Fight

  1. Accept the situation.  Look at whatever it is that you are dealing with and compartmentalize it into a situation that needs to be addressed. If you accept it for what it is – you can easily tell the care taking parent you understand their struggles before you even have to hear them. You accept the situation and by not making it an argument with the healthier parent – you’re giving them hope and understanding right out of the gate.
  2. Treat them like adults, not babies. That’s just silliness thinking for sure. But it’s totally true. My dad said to me ‘you have no idea how horrific it is not able to use your legs, Joey. I rely on your mother for everything. I’m like a baby.’ I stopped him dead in his voice on that one. I assured him that his feelings are 100% important and that it’s just going to take time for everything to fall into place. I told him have two babies—and my dad is a lot more fun to hang out with that babies BECAUSE he has a brilliant brain that I can learn more than ever before from.  He loved that.  Made me feel good too.
  3. Pick your battles. Listen, you have to tread carefully whether you’re raising teens to being married to a stressful husband…it all works in the same ways.  I pick my battles when I want to launch into rage sitting on a wet toilet seat in a house full of boys!  It’s disgusting and stressfulcbut no reason to flip my lid. (OK, so bad example cause EWWWW.  It is okay to flip your lid when you sit on boy pee?!!). The way I assess anything with my aging parents?  I look at the situation and jump in for anything tied into safety. That’s worth the argument. If not? Let them play it out. Give them their autonomy and save the fight for another day.
  4. Focus on the future. This is HUGE to keep me out of the ringer of depression. I have to think about positive things and events in my future to be able to effectively get past that bad point I may be into deeply. Pick something in the future dates that give off hope for relief.
  5. Believe in them. Give them your utmost highest honor and respect that you have ever given any one human being. Whether you believe that or not—they are your parents. They deserve to hear that you believe in them just as much as you hope and expect to hear that they believe in you too.

They are so worth it. I know this. You know this. So let’s show them that they are worth the investment. Let’s give them (and us) hope for a better tomorrow.

Joey Fortman (Founder, RealityMoms)

Joey Fortman is the brains behind #RealityMoms. In 2008, after 20+ years in traditional media hosting radio shows around the country, Joey traded in the microphone for a diaper bag, struggling through her own personal crisis: unemployed, overweight and lost in the land of mommy bloggers. Little did Joey know, her traditional media background would pave the way for success at Real Mom Media. As a sought after media magnet, Joey has been featured nationally on Good Morning America, Dr. Phil, Anderson Cooper, the Katie Couric Show, Dr. Oz, Redbook, The Today Show, The Talk, Fox and Friends & The Newlywed Game. When not at the sports complex with one of her kids, on an island or a grocery store run, or on Facebook Live with #RealityMoms contributors, Joey is obsessed with adult coloring.

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