Caring for older parents

Published 9:06 pm Thursday, August 22, 2019

It’s a big open secret that I talk a lot, but I’ve been trying to work on my listening skills too, and one of the things I’m hearing in my conversations is caring for older parents.

Now, my parents are fiercely independent and private people, and if I never talked about them at all and never took their photos ever again, I’ve got no doubt they’d be happy with that.

That doesn’t mean they don’t love seeing their granddaughter, and they allow me to take photos of her with them. It’s something I want for our daughter — to see how much her grandparents love her — and I’m thrilled to see how happy she gets at the mere mention that we’re going to Nana and Pop Pop’s house. I swell with more pride seeing her give them hugs, tell them she loves them and wants to spend time with them.

Email newsletter signup

In that vein, I’m a bit selfish that I want to ensure that she has a positive relationship with them for as long as possible. To that end, I also try to make sure I talk to my parents as often as possible, give them near daily updates on their granddaughter, and take her to their house when it’s possible.

But as my parents get older – and as an older first-time parent myself – it’s challenging to try to be helpful when the dynamic of the parent-child relationship has changed. I try to be helpful, as do my sisters and other family, but it’s a lot to do, and did I mention that my parents are fiercely independent and private people?

So I’m finding myself looking for resources to gently guide them toward as their needs arise — organizations such as Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia. It will assess individual needs and finances to help steer you to appropriate resources.

And just mentioning that, I’m only scratching the surface of what might be available to help them, or any gently older or young-at-heart parent. SSSEVA serves Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach out of its main office in Norfolk, and it also has offices in Franklin, Isle of Wight and Suffolk.

I know there are other resources through faith-based groups or churches and other organizations that I have been exploring so I can be prepared if and when a need arises. There are also organizations like Care Connect of Hampton Roads, AARP and the state’s Office for Aging Services of the Division for Community Living. Those are just some resources I’ve stumbled across, and if you know others that have been helpful in your own family’s situation, I’d love to hear more about that — personally and for sharing with the greater Suffolk community anything that can be helpful.

I’m not advocating for one group or another, and I don’t know yet every specific of every organization. I think everyone has to do their own research to determine what help might be out there for their own family’s situation.

But it’s something I’ve been exploring in more depth recently, because with the time demands of my wife and I working full time and being good parents for our 3-year old, I want to make sure I’m doing all I can to help them as they continue to live as independently as possible. And because, selfishly, I want them around as long as possible and for them to have a chance to develop the relationship with their granddaughter that I was never able to develop with my grandparents, due primarily to distance. On my mom’s side, there was also a language barrier to overcome.

As I’ve experienced, and as I’ve learned from others in my conversations with them beyond the stories I’ve been reporting, it’s a challenge on a good day to balance everything else in addition to wanting what’s best for our parents. But I know all of our hearts are in the right place.