I remember the first time I felt the angsty feeling of anticipation coming up the escalator at Denver International Airport. My long trek across the ocean, through customs, and on one last final airport train was nearly over, and I was almost to my people!
Over the years, who greeted me changed as sisters may or may not be in town and nieces were born; but the one constant? My parents. It was all I could do not to shove people on the escalator as I craned my neck, hoping for a first glance.
And then one year, as I practically ran towards them, it happened: my parents looked shockingly older than the last time I’d seen them. They began to resemble my grandparents more than my mental picture of my parents. Though still in good health at the time, I had a stronger sense than I’d ever had that my parents would one day, Lord willing, be the old-old and not the young-old. What would be my role in helping them? How would I navigate it with my sisters? Would my parents be a factor in my leaving the field?
If you stay on the field long enough, you will probably wonder similar questions. Last fall, one of you contacted me asking for resources to help with aging parents. I wasn’t aware of many resources outside of anecdotal stories and the fact that when I mention the topic, it was a familiar scenario as cross-cultural workers entered middle age.
With this in mind, last spring Global Trellis decided to tap into the collective wisdom from those who have already walked this path and conducted a survey.
What came through loud and clear is that everyone’s story is unique and holds both beauty and pain. In addition, 12 areas that require attention and/or factoring in emerged:
1. Every journey is unique
2. Communicating with siblings
3. The role of faith (your parents’, siblings’, and yours)
4. Transitions you and your aging parents might experience
5. Legal and financial issues with aging parents
6. Property and Belongings (helping with maintenance and/or downsizing)
7. The underlying question: To return or stay?
8. Supporting from a distance
9. The Big 3: Safety, Comfort, and Dignity
10. Navigating aging parents with an agency, a board, or independently
11. Grief experienced with aging parents
12. Doctors appointments and declining abilities
As you read over that list, I don’t know how you feel or where you are in this journey. Thinking of these 12 areas may feel overwhelming, depressing, exhausting, torn, and lonely. You may also feel grateful for people who are helping and the mercies God is extending to you and your family.
All can be true.
Sometimes what we need is information. We have a situation that is solvable and what we need is help getting information to solve it. Sometimes what we have a situation that we need help managing the tensions that come with it because there is no easy or exact solution.
Often the best way to manage a tension is in community. Sharing your story, asking your questions, being with others who are also walking the path you are on. With that in mind and in response to the survey we conducted, Global Trellis has compiled a list of resources (it’s being formatted now, I can get it to you when it’s ready) and created a one year cohort to cover the 12 topics listed above.
Since those early escalator days, my dad has gone on to be with Jesus and my mom is now considered to be more a part of the “old-old” than the “young-old.” I have to admit I hate seeing my parents age. I hate knowing that they will die. But I am so grateful that while God has ordained for each of us to walk out own paths, He has not left us stumbling alone.