Elderly parents

I took my Auntie Betty out on Tuesday as she had a stroke last November and doesn’t go very far these days. We went for a stroll in Dulwich Park and had lunch in the Pavilion Café.

It was special.

I used to play with my cousins on Sunday afternoons in Dulwich Park with my dog Misty and my parents who would chat, eat ice creams and laugh with my Aunties and Uncles.

It brought back memories.

Recently I’ve been coaching a Mum whose elderly mother has Alzheimer’s Disease and has had to go into a home. My client had to go and pack up 30 years of her Mums’ treasured possessions, furniture, photos and clothes and has to travel 60 miles on the M25 every week to visit her and her Mum cries and thanks her daughter for visiting but can’t remember her name or the names of her grandchildren any more.

Growing old can be painful.

But importantly, I feel caring for elderly parents can be harrowing, exhausting and often not understood by partners who are not yet at this stage with their own parents.

It can be isolating, draining and lead to resentment as you struggle to come to terms with your own grief, loss and yet this no-man’s land of twilight – caring for a parent in decline both mentally and physically who is still alive.

I experienced this myself as my Dad suffered mild stroke after mild stroke, became confused and lost his confidence, and my Mum suffered emphysema and fear.

It was a time of huge stress for me battling the sadness, coping with having to make the 999 calls as my mother panicked down the end of a phone about what to do as I was trying to teach my class of 8 year olds.

I lost count of how many times I sat in an ambulance on the way to the Mayday Hospital in Croydon between my Mum battling for breath or my Dad suffering a stroke.

This is a time of parenting that needs to be recognised, supported and talked through and not just with wonderful friends who mean well but don’t actually move you forward with practical solutions to your very real problems of overwhelm.

This is when I found my Coach invaluable – asking me empowering questions to help me make sense of what I had to do, and helping me to stay in the positive and practical mindset I needed to be in, to cope and handle confidently the often unprepared situations I found myself in. She helped me deal with the overwhelm, guilt, fear and emotional roller coaster of emotions I often found myself going through in just a matter of hours.

I wasn’t broken, in need of therapy or pills from the doctor.

I needed practical, common sense ways to support and nurture my parents whilst nurturing, feeding and keeping an eye on my kids homework as well as listening and supporting my children emotionally – as well as nurturing and renewing my own energy and need for support.

I felt pulled in two and often very tearful and exhausted with overwhelm.

My Auntie Betty and I had a great laugh, talked a little of the past but planned another trip next month to M & S to buy her a new dress for the Christmas Party at her Club – there was hope, respect, dignity and joy in spending time together and I’m sure my Mum and Dad were smiling down on us both as we walked slowly across the bridge back to my little red mini.