Saturday, December 31, 2011

End of the Year, End of an Era

Even though I'm 4o years old, nothing confirms full entry into adulthood like caring for an elderly parent. When the roles are reversed, and you are thrust into the role of telling your parents what to do, in the same way perhaps that you once spoke to your toddler, it is then that you realize that you are the next generation. You are now a keeper.

My parents have been in decline for years. It's part of the reason I moved back to California. In the year 2000, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimers. Back then he was just very forgetful and would get confused from time to time. Today he knows I'm related, but often doesn't know my name or exactly who I am.

My mother has been caring for him during most of his decline, and my sister and I helped her as much as we could as we struggled to raise our own families. About a month ago, it proved to be too much for my mother to handle any more. Not just caring for my father, we were already helping with that a lot, but just being with him. Her decline, which started about 3 years ago with a stroke, was followed by a diagnosis for Parkinson's disease. After that instance, our involvement in their care has been increasingly involved.

It seems that rise has crested now. My father was recently admitted to a Board and Care facility for those who suffer from memory disorders, and my mother who's health has rapidly declined in the past month will also go to a facility where she can receive the 24 hour attention she now requires.

I don't know which is more significant: that they no longer feel like my parents, or that it's beyond the abilities of my sister and I to care for them. Either way it's a poignant way to end the year, that leaves me wondering what's next.