101 Ways to Cope with Losing Elderly Parents #10 – #14 ~ Reflections

 Just how it goes, goes without saying …..

(from: Solitaire written by Neil Sedaka and Phil Cody,1972)

I set out with noble intent, some months back,  to write a series entitled 101 Ways to Cope with Losing Elderly Parents. I wanted to move away from me and my parents and be a resource for the world, based on my reading of the literature.

You may, or may not have noticed, that I never got passed #9. This isn’t because I suddenly lost interest in the subject; because I felt that no one was interested in what I had to say; or because I thought that ‘elderly parents’ had suddenly stopped dying.

I can see every single day that people are searching for information, solace, support, comfort … words of wisdom about how to cope with losing elderly parents and I have felt really bad about my abrupt silence on the whole issue.

I realise that my mistake was in trying to be ‘objective’ about a subject that had, and continues to have, huge significance for me.

I know perfectly well that there are grown-up children TODAY facing dilemmas and issues associated with their elderly parents similiar (but not identical to what I faced), especially during what I consider to have  been my parent’s ‘frail years’  ~ 2004-2010.

This very weekend in 2005 my mother was in a comatose state in hospital with pneumonia and was deemed to be on the verge of death. My father was in the very same hospital, just one floor above her, recovering from surgery for a hip replacement after a fall while down town on the Friday.

It was pure and utter hell ~though neither Mother nor Dad knew the full story.

Swan Family Photo: Frank Tubridy
Swan Family
Photo: Frank Tubridy

If I was trying to write this in terms of 101 Ways to Cope with Losing Elderly Parents #10 -#14, here’s what I’d be saying with the benefit of hindsight:

1. People don’t always die when they have been deemed to be at death’s door. (Mother came out of that episode pretty well and lived on with a reasonably good quality of life (at home) for almost 4 years;

2. Breaking a hip can spell the end or the beginning of the end for many elderly people BUT there are exceptions. (Dad was walking around totally independently ~ without any aids ~ from the morning after his hip operation. He was 86 at the time! Overall, neither the break to his hip nor the surgery knocked a feather out of him. Being hospitalised, or should I say  ‘ being away from home’  was his biggest issue in that it disorientated him greatly)

3. We didn’t tell either of our parents about the situation of the other at that time. We, kids, felt that it wouldn’t do either of them any favours to have to cope with worrying about the other as each had enough on their own respective plates. We never said very much about that ‘hellish’ August Bank Holiday weekend to either of them afterwards either, as it seemed like it had very little purpose to serve. In hindsight, I think this was the right decision, even though there are all sorts of ethical issues around ‘withholding the truth.’

4. Recognise the extent to which elderly parents, who have a strong bond, will both consciously and subconsciously be affected by the health and well being of the other. ( It was uncanny how often my parents both fell ill at the same time and I am as sure as I can be that it was because they were worried about each other, however much we tried to spare them that worry. This is part of what the longevity of a ‘happy’ marriage entails.)

5. Five and four years on since the deaths of my mother and father, respectively, I would say that  the memory of August Bank Holiday 2005 is as vivid as ever but so are many, many, many  other August Bank Holidays in which they were absolutely central.  And, this morning, as I went for an early swim and for a walk with a puppy they never had the pleasure of knowing, I know that Mother and Dad are still a huge part of my life as I carry their hearts in mine. 









Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

15 thoughts on “101 Ways to Cope with Losing Elderly Parents #10 – #14 ~ Reflections”

  1. I understand what you say, not one situation is the same as the next. Getting old and dying are very complicated situations! xxxx, I shall tell you about my 94yr old Mother in law sometime! xxx

    1. Thanks Willow! You’ve summed it up perfectly. However, even though there are differences and uniquenesses, there are many overlaps!

      I’d love to hear about your 94 year-old Mother in Law sometime.

      Have a lovely weekend. jxxxxxxxxxxxx

      1. You too! Yes I totally agree with you about the overlaps and the uniqueness in every instance! My mother in law………………….. yes that will have to wait ! Be well and happy and keep sending us pictures of your beautiful gardens and beach! xxxxx

    1. HCC, thanks for your kind words. I certainly was very fortunate to have my parents for such a long time and feel for people whose parents died when they were a lot younger than me. Losing them at any age is such a wrench!

    1. Andelieya, you are more than welcome and I’m sorry to hear that you are at a point where you are worrying a great deal about your parents. There’s seems to be no easy or ‘perfect’ way to deal with the ageing and frailty of those we love.

  2. Some of your thoughts definitely resonated with me. The year after my dad died, my mother became ill with breast cancer and I was always sure one had in some way led to the other. And then, my mother seemed often to be at death’s door for the four years she lived after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, only to rally once more, until she did pass away.

    1. Andrea, many thanks for writing. I’m sorry to hear that your mother became ill so quickly after your father’s death. It certainly isn’t easy to cope with nor is it surprising especially if a couple are close to each other.
      Your mother sounds like she was a real ‘battler’ to use a word my father was rather fond of!!

  3. As always, stunning picture and moving words, Jean. It’s always a pleasure coming back to your blog. I’m so sorry that you went through such an awful time, I hope you can take strength from the fact that both are not in pain anymore.

    1. Billie, apologies for the delay in responding to your comment. Thanks very much for your kind words.
      Yes, it is crucially important to me to know that both Mother and Father are out of their pain and discomfort. I’d say, though, that I draw more strength from the great legacy of love and interests that they left me. Really, they never, ever seem far away as I feel them through so many things from everyday sayings to nature, Dad’s photos, Mother’s writings and little things like the old saucepan stand with its many ancient saucepans that has come to live happily in my kitchen.

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