Last week I talked about respecting your aging parents’ independence, while keeping them safe and engaged as they end their lives here with you. It is often a difficult but extremely rewarding task to care well for those you love during this time but incredibly important!
With my Dad it was easier, I think. He was pretty healthy, both mentally and physically, until he was diagnosed with terminal cancer in his 70’s. He did not choose radical treatments, but elected to spend his final months spending time doing all the things he enjoyed with those he loved best. Those “goodbyes” are among my fondest memories and allowed him to keep the independence he had always known and was such an integral part of his nature.
With my Mom it was a very different journey. Her physical health was declining rapidly and she missed my Dad tremendously. These issues made decisions about independence and what she should do versus what she could do harder to navigate. Fiercely independent (as Scots-Irish, Appalachian natives tend to be), outgoing and creative, she found it frustrating and disheartening to limit her activities to her physical limitations. Her world got smaller and smaller, which I now understand is very common as people age. How could my family and I affirm her choices, whether we agreed with them or not, and care for her in a loving compassionate manner? How could we celebrate her successes and support her choices?
In an earlier post, I stated that I believe children need to support their parents’ rights to make their own decisions. Empowering them to choose, even though it may not be our preference, is essential! Making their choices, as long as they are mentally capable of doing so, gives our parents the independence they desire and honors them in very powerful ways.
Then, at the end of their journey, our treasured memories and the choices that we allowed our parents to make for themselves can help temper our grief. I also believe that it will give us peace that we honored them by giving them our very best.
Submitted by Brook Dickerson