Aging Parents

I recently signed up for a google alert on aging parents.  It's clear from the articles and blog links I'm receiving that angst is high between boomers and aging parents.  There's plenty of information on caregiving statistics, challenges of the sandwich generation, and how to find the right nursing home —when the time comes.  But no-one is talking about how to create a partnership between aging parents and adult children that supports independence and well-being on all levels – body, mind and spirit. 

After years of creating exercise and wellness programs for the senior living industry I've realized something….all the good intentions and efforts, quality programs, and step-by-step guides to senior care fall short if you fail to create a true partnership of well-being between the individual needing care and the caregiver.  It doesn't matter if they are living in an assisted living community or an adult childs home. 

A true care partnership focuses on enhancing well-being in body, mind and spirit – regardless of challenges. It doesn't let the medical model of care (i.e. managing illness and chronic conditions) take center stage. This shift in thinking focuses on possibilities rather than disabilities, and actively celebrates all the big and small things that make someone a unique person.  The disability movement profoundly changed the lives of people with disabilities by making this same shift.  It stopped allowing disabilities to define individuals and what they were capable of and provided support for what they could do rather than lament what they couldn't do.  In this new care "environment" many individuals with profound disabilities accomplished amazing things.

It's time to do the same for frail older adults and their families. I want to help adult children and aging parents create partnerships that promote lifelong independence, and support well-being regardless of challenges. Over the next months I'll provide a variety of tools designed to help individuals create environments of well-being rather than illness management.  I'll look forward to hearing your feedback.    

4 responses to “Aging Parents”

  1. JStone says:

    My wife’s mother is in great health and is a very intergral and active part of my wifes life, and as a result mine and our son’s. She is also quite elderly.
    Although my B and her mother have on the surface a close relationship, my wife has made it clear that as soon as her mother becomes a burden, through illness or age, she will send her back to China, either to her sister or to a nursing home.
    This is a very pragmatic approach, and oddly, her mother is in complete agreement with this.
    Now my wife claims to have been raised in a very close family, and this is borne out of the ongoing contact she maintains with the rest of her family, but something about the pragmatism of these relationships doesn’t sit well with me.
    They tend to represent relationships of convenience, which in my ‘Western’ world is the anti-thesis of the foundation for family. In any case, it has worked well for their whole family so far, and given that there has never been any family inheritence to fight over, the relationships have remained symbiotic and mutually beneficial.
    Of course, this is the easy part. If or when her mother ages to a point where she herself needs ongoing help, the pressures on the whole family will be compounded. Although I have some work colleagues who have easily transitioned their parent’s into a nursing home facility, the emphasis on family within the Chinese culture, I expect, would make this a more difficult proposition.
    Only time will tell, and although my mother-in-law is in great shape for her age, both mentaly and physically, she does have a worriesome tremor and increasing rigidity in her body, which is looking more and more like Parkinson’s disease.
    For those who know about this disease, it is progressive and insidious, and takes a terrible toll on the whole family in terms of the level of care that is required. For my mother-in-law’s sake, I hope that this care, no matter how difficult, is provided by us, and not a nursing home. It just wouldn’t be right.

  2. Montanakay says:

    Thanks for your comments. One of things we have to remember is that no-one knows who could become a burden to the family.Any one of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow and become disabled. I think the key to harmony requires a couple of things: 1-everyone being willing to talk openly about options and beliefs,2- if a person is disabled (for whatever reason) they still focus on well-being and ways to contribute as an individual to the family/ community, 3- that each person acknowledge they can only control their own beliefs and behaviors and no-one elses – especially important when coming from different cultures. It sounds like as unsettling as the choices are for you, ultimately, if your mother-in-law has expressed her wishes they should be followed. Its hard sometimes to honor someones wishes when they dont feel right.
    Best of luck. Kay

  3. Mujer says:

    Where do you get all this information so useful? Had long been looking for this kind of thing and could not find them anywhere, but if your blog!

  4. Kay Van Norman says:

    Thank you for all the comments on my blog. I invite you to go to my website at http://www.kayvannorman.com for more information and for full articles with references listed. I am currently working on a new book titled; Brilliant Aging- Creating a culture of well-being with aging parents. Kay

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