Adults with aging parents

It is a rare occasion for me to get into a chat with a fifty something year old person and
not eventually arrive at the topic of caring for aging parents. The conversations vary,
feeling blessed to have healthy parents, being completely overwhelmed by the
responsibilities of care taking a challenging parent. Health, illness, demand, resentment,
fear, sibling rivalry, financial worries, independent living, assisted living, all these words
pepper the conversation. We are all experiencing loss and isolation. Loss of a vibrant
beloved parent, loss of your own life style and freedoms. Discomfort with the intimacies
caring giving can involve. And so often alone and unsupported by loved ones as you
face the daunting decisions involved in providing a safe environment for your parents.

As my parents were aging the worry and apprehension were a constant companion. I
lived 3000 miles away from them and any emergency would leave me days behind in
getting to them. I quickly realized the need to create a network including doctors names
and numbers, each requiring a signed release from my parents, the same for hospitals
and attorneys. My trips to visit my parent became more like marathons as I tried to
assuage my sadness for not being closer by frantically identifying resources. I relate this
to say I have great empathy for those who are guiding their parents through this stage
of life. And I also had ambivalence about being in their business, becoming more the
adult, and I had unresolved feeling toward my parents that interfered with my desires to
be a good daughter.

One early morning, on my way to see my parents, I was on a lay over in a Texas airport.
Strolling around in the quiet emptiness I noticed something shiny on the ground. I had
been walking and cogitating on my ambivalence about being a caretaker. I stopped to
pick up the item and discovered it was a metal heart with the word love inscribed on it. I
took this as a sign and decided at that moment to set my passed anger and hurt behind
me and act towards my parents from a place of love. That decision clarified the path I
would travel, it allowed me to act with integrity and respect. I never wanted to feel regret
about my actions after my parents passing. I found my path and would like to offer
support to others seek direction in confronting the both painful and honorable journey of
caring for our loved ones.

Laney Kibel is a licensed clinical social worker practicing in Portland Or. She sees
individuals, couples and families and runs a support group for adults with aging parents.

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