Families as They Age…

We cannot always be there for our parents, especially when living far away from them, but we can still develop meaningful relationships that provide support. We can become educated about local resources and care management opportunities if that is possible or how to take care of ourselves if we become caregivers. We can start those conversations with our parents about their wishes for the end, the practical issues of finances and wills. By being empowered - both young and old, the terror of the unknown dissipates.

Even when older children complain of role reversal - worrying about their parents not calling, will they fall? are they drinking too much, should they be driving? - they have not experienced any reversal and still expect to be respected and have self-determination. And sometimes, for them, whether intellectually articulated or known in their bones, quality of life and independence is worth the risk of an earlier death.

Many of us are dealing with parents while also dealing with children and with older adults living even longer, these adult children may be well on in their years with families of their own. Managing the fears and sadness of our families in the face of declining parents is another emotional challenge to consider.

We love them and sometimes hate them. They can be small and stifling but also can be sprawling and confusing. Just watch August, Osage County to see the tragedy, humor and poignancy of any large family when it must come together to deal with illness and death.

How do our feelings towards our families evolve...

I am very interested in how adult children deal with parents who are living longer, and often with chronic illness. How do our relationships change over the many years since we were a family unit? Spouses, discussions of inheritance, the role of caretaking often falling on one sibling, and parents meteing out what we kids think of as their currency: their attention and their money. It is confusing but also fascinating to me. As a student working towards a Masters in Social Work and a hoped-for practice dealing with these issues, I want to use this space to share some of my thoughts, get input from others, and provide links and resources as I learn them.