Following my last entry in which I shared some reflections of my time with my 88 year old mother who suffers from dementia, I was pleased to hear back from some of you who shared your experiences attending to an aged parent. There are just so many trials and tribulations in witnessing the deterioration of the body-mind of someone we cherish. It is a source of real sorrow to see someone you know and love dearly lose their faculties and it portends the not too distant future when each of us will experience similar failings. Inevitably one’s hearing fades, the eyes grow dim, the memory wanes and the sense of independence diminishes. In a ten minute conversation with my mom she will inevitably ask five times, “how is the weather there today?” She cannot recall the name of the toaster, the town where I live, or the name of her grandson. I am reminded how the end of a life is similar to the beginning. There is amnesia( total or partial), a lack of independence, forgetting to eat, wearing the same clothes each day, lack of spatial awareness. For our parents generation, the way the world operates by smart phones, Zoom, Sound Cloud, Air Play and the like, seem as foreign as a distant land speaking in a very strange tongue. Often my mom will pretend she knows what is happening, or play along as if she does, when in reality she is really quite disoriented. There is an existential not-knowing that older people live with. It includes the fear of losing what they have, losing each other and the fear of death. I am relieved that my mom does not get anxious, panicky and obsessive as she loses purchase on life. In the face of such overwhelming shrinkage, anxiety can be crippling. We invite each of you to share your own experience in caring for an aging parent as there are so many commonalities, shared trials and challenges. It is helpful to realize that many of us are navigating the same adversities in our own unique family matrix. By sharing what it means to bear witness to deterioration and loss, inspires collective faith and comfort in the face of inevitable isolation.
Do you have thoughts or an experience caring for an aging loved one that you would like to share? You can do so by clicking here. We’ll be sharing these stories as a resource for our sangha to gain understanding and knowledge from our community.