The Convenient Truth
5th July 2022
As parents begin to age, accepting certain truths can sometimes be difficult for them and their children. An elder may be hesitant to acknowledge the fact that they need help with day-to-day tasks and end up exerting themselves to the point of harm, primarily to prove a point. Likewise, their children may be sitting continents away, oblivious to the fact that their parents are struggling. They left the country when their parents were still young and active, and that is the memory of them that they wish to preserve.
The difficulties of time zones and professional work schedules also contribute to this problem. They might talk to their parents once or twice a week, and both parties wish to keep this interaction as pleasant as possible – they have conversations about the food they ate, how fast the grandchildren are growing up, and how horrible the weather is. In reality, they should be utilizing this precious time to discuss the unexplained fatigue they’re experiencing, the financial crunch they’re under lately, and their poor mental health due to loneliness. The meaningful conversations are lost in the quest to portray positivity.
Living under this impression of a convenient truth isn’t going to be helpful to anyone in the long run, instead it could end in unnecessary heartache and concern when it is too late to act on anything.
My own mother chose not to tell me about her cancer for three years out of fear that she may add to my already stressful life. By the time we found out, despite the best medical care by renowned oncologists, it was still too late. She succumbed to the dreadful disease within 6 months.
It is only natural for a parent to want to protect their children from the burdens of reality, but if they are unwilling to let go of this selfless mindset, the responsibility must lie in the hands of the children – they should ask the difficult questions and make the correct decisions for the wellbeing of those who took care of them first. Very often, children assume that the solution is a simple one: get a caretaker. While acknowledging the fact that their parents need help is a step in the correct decision, the journey doesn’t end there. There are so many more measures a child must take to ensure their parents’ safety and comfort in their old age.
While it can be logistically and emotionally challenging to embark on this journey from miles away, it is important to recognize the help that is readily available now and use it, even if parents are insistent that they are coping well without it. At some point, they should be preparing to move their parents into a friendly retirement community that is well-equipped with all the services they need or consider the possibility of investing in a professional services company that specializes in at-home care.
But most importantly, the kids need to have meaningful conversations to determine the true state of emotional and physical well-being of their parents. If the decision is that the parents need support, they need to be assertive and convince them of the same – after all, when they were little, the parents did the same. They shouldn’t believe that an elderly parent is fine, just because they say that they are. They shouldn’t ignore their needs, just because it may be temporarily inconvenient to move down the correct path.