Baby Boomers were raised by parents or loved ones who believed in the validity of a handshake and the importance of treating others as they themselves expected to be treated. The golden rule we learned as children, carried meaning to our parents and grandparents. They held tight to work ethic, honesty, integrity, faith, and dignity.
As our parents age, they are faced with the realization and loss of these basic staples of life. It’s a painful process when they must accept the inability to stand alone, loss of their independence or worse, the need to depend on someone else to do what they value as important.
When patience runs low or feeling of deep frustration strike, step back and reflect on the dignity that is owed to aging parents. Keep in mind what is hard for us as children is tenfold for our parents. The aging process brings with it seasons of joy, but it also carries fear and loss of personal worth. The “what if’s” of life become vivid reality and the aging parent find themselves torn between dependence and independence.
Learning the process of aging takes time. It requires family involvement; children and siblings must find ways to explore the changing needs of our seniors in order to make the transition of seasons smooth and less stressful.
As parents age, our own sense of reality is affected. The parents who willingly helped us along the way, suddenly require our help. Tasks that were once easy for them become labored or fall to the wayside, and we’re taken back by their loss…our loss.
Preparation and education are necessary evils no one wants to face. But following these reminders will help family members reserve the dignity of their elderly.
Repetition is not uncommon. Remember as parents grow older and begin to repeat questions, there was a time when we, as children, constantly asked “Why?” Keep in mind the patience our parents exemplified in teaching us and exercise that same diligence with them.
When they can’t seem to recall your name, remember there was a time when the only name we could repeat, was theirs. “Momma, Daddy.” When their movements are slow and tedious, keep in mind, it was their loving hands which steadied us as we toddled. If a meal ends up on their clothes instead of in their mouths, don’t forget who patiently taught us to feed ourselves and then gently swiped the goo from our fingers.
As our parents continue to grow older and personal cleanliness becomes a problem, it was they who walked us through potty training and who bathed the mud from our childhood antics, then re-cleaned the tub for the ump-teenth time. And when they lose their confidence after a fall, remember the numerous times they held us close after a tumble, then encouraged us to forge ahead. It was our parents who cheered us through the rough times as a child and who allowed us to lean against them as adults.
When the frustration of the added “stuff”—walkers, canes, or wheelchairs which have to be lugged out the door and to the car just to take them to the post office, remember the diaper bags, the bottles, the extra clothes, snacks, and “stuff” they toted off their shoulder, while you rested on their hip, legs dangling, and arms squeezing their necks. It was a chore then and it’s still a chore, but worth the effort—worth the love.
And most of all, when they meet with the fears of forgetfulness and the anxieties of being in unfamiliar surroundings, remember how they stood in the background, just in view, encouraging you to step forward, “You can do it!”
Finally, when the reality they cannot be left alone digs deep into their hearts, remember they never left us alone, afraid, or ignored us as small children, but they kept us close at hand, always watching, always present…always there.
When the roles reverse, remember to love and treat our aging seniors with dignity and honor—for without them, we would be nothing. Scripture instructs us to “Honor your father and mother." This is the first commandment with a promise: 3 If you honor your father and mother, "things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth." (Eph. 6:2-3, NLT). Our obedience to this commandment comes with a promise that things may go well for us when we do so. Preserving the dignity of our seniors as they succumb to aging is the most important thing, we as children can offer our parents. After all, everything we learned…we learned from our parents. If for nothing else, they have earned the right.