As I was going through my teen years I watched my mother and father struggle with a difficult task, taking care of elderly parents. My stepfather was an only child, and did not have anyone to share his burden of caring for his elderly parents besides my mother.
My stepfather’s parents both died of cancer, and their care before they died, was both difficult and taxing for both of my parents.
There were days of tears, arguments and long doctor visits. Towards the end, there were lengthy hospital visits, which often turned into lengthy overnight stays for both of them. My parents would take turns spending the night at the hospital, and trying to raise a family of 5 teenagers.
Only children have the unique, and lonely burden of the sole care of their aging parents. There is no one to share their grief, their loneliness, their angst, and their heart-wrenching decisions as time wears on. Their spouse is their only source of comfort, as they try to not only manage the parent that is ill, they also try to manage the remaining parent, that as my husband put it, “can vacillate between toddler and teenager” at any given moment. The only child tries to manage all of this while still maintaining a job, a household, children, finances, etc…
The only child also has to bear the burden of dealing with his parents as they lose the struggle of losing their independence. They become belligerent become they don’t why they can no longer do as they please. They become angry when they are told they have to have their schedules & medications monitored. They become resistant to losing the freedom of being able to come and go as they once desired.
As I watched my mother and stepfather struggle with his parents, I wondered how they finally survived those long years.
Well, I am finding out first hand myself. My husband is an only child and we are now caring for his ailing parents. I never imagined that I would find myself in the same position as my mother, all those years ago, but here I am.
There are days that seem like an eternity. Days of running back and forth to the hospital, managing a home, trying to spend time with my children, and grandchildren, paying bills, looking for a job, and cleaning house.
My husband is burning the candle at both ends so to speak. He works non-stop, and then he has to worry about his parents, the house, the bills, especially with me not working, his parents finances as well, paying their bills, and not to mention all of the difficult decisions he has to make regarding their care, all by himself.
Yes, I do help, but keep in mind, he has no siblings to help him carry this burden. I am his spouse, they are not my parents.
If you have ever cared for elderly parents, you know what we are going through. This is like raising sick children, it is constant care. Medications have to be monitored, meals have to be monitored, we have even had to change our living, and eating schedules to match theirs so that we can keep them on track.
It is a huge sacrifice, one I know my husband is more than willing to give, because he loves his parents. We have had to make huge adjustments, such as not living alone after we were married (we are newlyweds) but, it is worth it to see that his parents are cared for by people who love them.
For those of you that are taking care of elderly parents, or elderly relatives, my heart goes out to you. This is a non-stop job, that occupies every minute of every day just about. It takes huge personal sacrifice, and dedication, and it is not for the faint of heart. Some days it is even a thankless job, but known that deep down inside they do care, and they do appreciate it.