Aging Parents – Embracing the Suck


Aging Parents and Caregiving

Caregiving for aging parents. Most of us in our 40s, 50s and even some of us in our 30s (ok I’m not!) face this. If you have been in this situation, you’ve experienced the painful impact of a diagnosis or simply a long, slower decline of your loved one.   

While I experienced the demands of caregiving when my mid-fifties husband fought off cancer, approaching the longer haul with aging parents brings a special kind of physical, mental, and emotional weight. I’m in this now, and it feels important (and healing) to share these experiences over time if it helps prepare others. There are many components tied to your parent(s) entering this phase of life. Like legal/finances, logistics, massive transition, complex decisions, hard discussions, and emotional struggle. I’ll begin to share tips and tools about them, but there’s only one reasonable and obvious place to start.

The biggest and most immediate aspect is simply recognizing that caring for an aging parent stinks. In an absolutely, epic manner.

One of the first ways to handle a long-term challenge is to face its negativity head on and embrace it. And, then let it go.

So, responsible planning be damned, let’s talk about the suck.

Caregiving Stress

Let’s face it. Caregiving is hard. It’s emotionally taxing and complex. It’s exhausting. And at times, it can be downright scary and depressing. Becoming fully cognizant of the marching of time offers its own complicated emotional path. As a parent of young adults, I am very familiar with the weight of caring for another person’s well-being. It’s a comfortable zone – familiar territory – even if I am technically always walking an unknown path of parenthood.  

Yet, it’s scary to transition to having responsibility of an older adult’s health and well-being. Caring for someone older, frailer – and someone who once was a complete powerhouse in all aspects of life?! For someone whom I have looked to as a mentor, guide, friend and who was one of the first two people I ever knew?! Ultimately, knowing when the fateful days come, the family legacy is passed to me to shoulder which brings a sense of awe, commitment, and weight?!

This process requires facing all of the emotions head on, as avoiding them makes this process impossible and the start of healing out of reach. If I don’t feel and deal with them as they arise, I’m only setting myself and others up for an even harder time.

Damn Sisters … that’s a lot of suck.

Balancing Life with Aging Parents

I work full time, have a family at home (one teen, a husband and two dogs). I devote daily concerted time to physical fitness. Maintaining regular touch with friends is a priority. I value sleep. Now, at times, I am on point as an only child for my parents.

Is it worth it? Hell, yes.

Is it an enormous weight and some suck? Definitely.

Perhaps, you’ve had to handle assessing or changing residential living arrangements. Possibly, you’ve realized that wills and other estate arrangement were not structured effectively or done at all. Maybe, you’ve been responsible for some element of direct care – errands, transportation to medical appointments or even daily hygiene care. Often a caregiver for a parent ends up involved in some capacity managing medical discussions, making healthcare decisions, and executing complex Medicare and Medicaid coverage options.

And, I am sure you’ve simply taken on the mental “to dos” and worry surrounding all of it. Some days, the decisions and tactical activities involved are enough to make any strong human being want to pull their hair out. Or just grab your favorite snack and cry.

Joy of Caring for an Aging Parent

What gets me through the suck? I mean aside from the fact that it’s simply the right thing to do and my responsibility?

Truthfully, because caring for your loved one is the ultimate gift that you can give. Human beings feel positive about giving back, especially to those who gave to us throughout our lives. Our history ties us to these people and to wanting to envelop them in the same the loving regular care that they gave to us. Often, a person’s satisfaction comes from a heightened sense and gain of self-awareness and value, and, therefore, self-confidence.  

And? I love them. Most simply put. That makes the suck worth it. Always.

Just Stay Aware of You

Caregiving is one of the most incredible acts of love there is. Providing support, assistance, and companionship to an aging loved one is a remarkable thing to do. Yet, recognize that it is an emotional journey – you feel so many things, sometimes all at once – even the suck. That’s totally OK.

There are many associations such as AARP, Family Caregiver Alliance or the Caregiver Action Network that address the emotional and mental stress that caregiving places upon the actual caregiver. If you are in this journey too, reach out for support.

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Hi All, I’m Rebecca! I’ve worked in marketing strategy in the healthcare and wellness industry since college and my MBA for 20+ years (yikes!!). I’m blessed to have combined my geeky professional self with my passions: awareness of and mental health supports for disenfranchised populations and communities. I volunteer in educating the greater community about the real experiences of those in (and out of) recovery from the disease of addiction. I was so honored to give a TED talk in 2019 about removing stigma and shame by simply shifting the language we use, as this is near and dear me. Yet, at the end of the day, my family is everything in my world. I live with my husband Mike and two teenage sons in Lee, along with a crazy cattle dog (Maggie), cat (Leia), fish, 100 snails and soon to be chickens. While a Jersey shore girl at heart, living in MA and NH since the late 90s has fully converted me to a New England sports fan and avid skier, hiker and kayaker. I guess I’m a perfectly imperfect, harmonious, and happy runner, who cares deeply for humans, and Mother Nature. Follow me on Instagram @mommabear5786 to see what life in a house of boys, recovery, loud music, a bit of attitude, and nature looks like!