Week Forty-eight: Kathy Benson

Kathy Benson - Week 48 - Photo

How have you handled, or how do you plan to handle the aging of your parents?

There is an expression in my family, which we began using when my maternal grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s disease, was close to the end of her life.

“It sounds like you are handling it well.”

My parents would say that to my grandmother after listening to her describe her feelings about something she was dealing with at the assisted living facility where she lived for the last 18 months before died. The further along my grandma’s Alzheimer’s progressed, the harder it was to always understand what she was talking about, so my parents learned to try to get a sense of how she felt about her experiences and then validate her feelings.

I loved their approach back then and appreciate how our family continues to use that phrase, though sometimes now we do so in jest, when listening to each other and trying to validate our feelings. We may not always understand or be interested in the things that others share about with us. But I have learned that when you care about someone, whether it is aging parents, siblings, spouses, children and/or other loved ones, it is more important to pay attention to their feelings, than to always be able to make sense of or be as interested in what they are talking about as they are.

It is bittersweet for me to watch my parents age.

My father turned 72 and my mom will be 71 this year. They are retired and I feel blessed and lucky that my husband, children and I don’t live very far from them. Our kids and I usually get to see my parents at least once a week and relish in having quality time together. I genuinely enjoy my parents’ company and consider them to be two of my closest friends.

In recent years I have become acutely aware of how you never know when your last day with a loved one could be. This is in part because the older I get more of my peers’ parents are getting very ill or have died. With that in mind, I try to always soak in the moments I have with my mom and dad and when it is time to say goodbye after a visit tell them I love them and give them a hug and a kiss. My parents are both in relatively good health and try to take care of themselves, so I don’t anticipate them leaving this world anytime soon. But I also don’t want to have any regrets about our relationships and the time we spent together when they do die eventually, which hopefully won’t be for many more years.

I admire how well prepared my parents are for their own passing. It is sad to think about, but I am grateful that they have planned ahead for various circumstances, which may play out as they age. My mom and dad both have long-term care insurance. I realize that not everyone in their golden years can afford such an investment, but I appreciate that my mom and dad worked hard throughout their lives, saved a lot of their earnings, managed their money well and chose to get it, especially after our family’s experiences with their parents/my grandparents who did not have that kind of insurance.

My parents have also been very open about and clear with my older sister and me about their intentions as it relates to their wills, estate and health care/end of life wishes. My mom and dad have even purchased their gravesites and a beautiful designed headstone, which is already in place at the cemetery where they will be buried.

I understand that some people and families find these topics uncomfortable to discuss. However, I have so much respect for my parents that they have thought so much of this through and shared their decisions with my sister and me, along with some close family friends, so when the time comes for them to pass away we will be as prepared as possible, at least logistically. I don’t know that we can every really be ready emotionally for the deaths of our parents.

So all things considered, I feel like I am handling the aging of my mom and dad well. However, I can’t begin to fathom a life that doesn’t included my living parents in it and hopefully won’t have to find out what that looks and feels like for a long time.

How have you handled, or how do you plan to handle the aging of your parents?

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Kathy Benson is a bereaved and blessed mom, writer and group fitness instructor trying to live mindfully and find joy in the journey after dealing with secondary infertility and loss for five years. She lives in Chicago, Illinois with her husband and two living children.

Kathy blogs at Bereaved and Blessed. You can also follow Kathy on Twitter @BereavedBlessed and her Facebook page.

 

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2 thoughts on “Week Forty-eight: Kathy Benson

  1. Pingback: Spring Shed: Week Eleven

  2. Hi Kathy – A lovely post. “It sounds like you are handling it well.” A wonderful validation statement. I think it is important to have your financial and long term affairs in place. In today’s world, people are living long and may need care. It can be confusing and guilt producing to make decisions. I think, though, that the LTC insurance can be a false sense of security, the policies don’t cover alot of things and many of the companies are going out of business as they can’t contain their costs. Be careful, I wish there was a good solution!

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