And Now the End is Near — Caring for Aging Parents Isn’t for the Faint of Heart
There comes a time when you switch roles with your parents. The role reversal sneaks up on you — one day Mom and Dad are attending your high school graduation, and the next you’re scheduling their doctors’ appointments.
When my parents reached their 70s, my brother and I agreed that an “adult” should go along with them to their doctor’s appointments to avoid the selective memory that’s common with seniors. I scheduled a lot of appointments, followed up on test results, and took phone calls from many doctors.
I could be watching a ballgame in my apartment, or sitting down to dinner with friends when the call would come in. “Frank, I just got your father’s bloodwork, and I saw something I didn’t like. I need you to take him to the emergency room so they could run some tests at the hospital.”
Seeing your parents looking gaunt and pale sitting up in a hospital bed is never easy. No one looks healthy in one of those hospital gowns. Worse than that is camping out and waiting for the surgeon’s update on the latest procedure.
Time catches up to all of us. In my mind’s eye, my parents are in their 50s. How could that be? I zipped through my 50s and the off-ramp to 60 is within view..
My father’s illness was eye-opening. I spent half of my visits fighting with doctors, nurses and healthcare administrators instead of spending time with him. Care meetings were more about the hospital or nursing home looking out for their own well-being instead of the patients.
Dad had pancreatic cancer. Although he fought hard, this fight was too much for him. There’s no shame, that type of cancer devours everything it comes in contact with.
He’s been gone for seven years. The raw feeling of anger and disbelief faded over time. I still miss him but I made peace with it. A new job kept me busy. Raising a son mellowed me. Time eased the pain of Dad’s loss.