I feel like I'm watching my parents disappear from this world.

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My parents in their 80's are probably in the category of the 'greatest generation'. Their lives seem to have fallen in line with similar paths of others. Dad proudly served this country in the navy, met mom when he returned and they both worked day jobs to put themselves through college. Nobody gave them a dime, but they made their money through hard work and seemed to take satisfaction in that. Dad didn't retire until he was 72 years old. Even then, they were active and volunteered at the local hospital, church and community. They traveled, but remain living in the area they grew up so many people know them wherever they go. Two years ago mom became ill with a broken hip and has declined rapidly with various issues since then. Dad is her primary caretaker, exhausted and tired. They rarely leave the house. Mom says she wants to die. Dad says he has no quality of life. I do what I can to support, help with doctor appointments and help around their home.
What breaks my heart is they way I see the essence of what they are disappearing. Dad even told me "I'm too old for this world". I think what they value ... things like honor your word, live the example, treat others as you wish to be treated, respect of country, always take time for kids/grandkids are things that nobody seems to have any regard for. People seem to have no patience with them, don't take any time for them.
Is it just me? Does this happen to every generation as they age?
My parents always had me and my sister's family at their house for Christmas, but this year let my sister host the dinner. At the last minute mom felt ill, and couldn't make it. My sister's 25 year old son said "Oh great, do we have to just mope around all day because they're not here?" I cringed. My sister kept telling me that it's not all about mom & dad and she wanted her kids to have a good holiday. So, she never mentioned our parents at all during the dinner. Nobody did. I stayed briefly and left. I've never been close to my sister and will likely never return to any "holiday" celebration with her again.
Is this odd? Do I have a self-absorbed sibling raising similarly-focused children?
I find it heartbreaking. Does it always come down to this?
Thanks.

56 Comments

I get exactly what you’re expressing. My parents were/are of the same generation. The longer my mom has been gone, though I still miss her daily, the more I wonder if anyone else remembers her at all. And my dad, at 87, often brings out the impatience and disregard in many. My dad frequently says the same as your dad, he feels too old for this world, doesn’t relate to much of what goes on today, and is ready to go. One of my two self absorbed brothers has stated he “won’t put up with any old people junk” from my dad and would have been happy to have “put a pillow over mom’s face” in the nursing home and just ended it. Like you, I feel sure this sibling relationship, already tenuous at best, will be non existent after our dad is gone. I’ll fully admit my dad is often a challenge, but he’s also been a terrific dad, always had time for us, and we’ve all benefitted greatly from having him. It’s sad when others don’t see the things this generation has to teach and offer, even in their declining time.
Well, there are plenty of self-absorbed people out there. My brother is one. Didn't come back to see mom in the last seven years of her life.

But there are also really good people out there who have plenty of patience for seniors. I was the Executive Director of a non-profit where we had volunteer drivers drive seniors to their doctors' appointments using their personal cars. We had/have over 100 volunteer drivers who are willing to spend up to two hours driving and then sitting and waiting for seniors during their appointments and taking them back home. They don't get paid and they barely even get any money for gas - most get none. They do it out of the goodness of their hearts. There are organizations like this all over the country. So there are definitely good people out there with a heart for seniors.
Medical science keeps everybody alive and is no longer unusual to live to be in their 80's and 90's -- along with it rise in Alzheimer's and other diseases of aging such as heart and lung diseases and diabetes takes its toll. Nobody wants you after age 80 and many do become a burden to their family which is why we have nursing homes.
My dad was diagnosed with dementia 5 years ago. My mom was his primary caregiver and it just wasnt in her skill set. She put up with his decline but she refused to have help come into the house (Dad refused too). Dad went into hospital for a UTI and Mom declared out of the blue that she can’t take it anymore. Well, that was a complete shock to me. She never once had a talk with me about her stress level. Dad went into a memory care floor in a retirement home. Mom visited but her heart wasn’t in it. She did it because it was the right thing to do. He declined slowly. Eventually, he had a stroke this past November which stopped his ability to swallow food or liquid. The end was near. My brother (who lives 4000km away) decided to go on a 2 week vacation to Hawaii with his wife instead of coming home to spend the last weeks that dad had left on this earth. My mom was ok with that! She and I kept vigil taking shifts in the hospital until he passed away. My brother booked his flight before my dad passed away so he could use air miles. He was lucky to be there for the funeral. My brother and I have never been close and his actions will not bring me any closer to him. My mother I continue to forgive because she is my mother after all. I love her even though she makes wrong decisions. She was there through it all. So in a long winded way, to answer your question, I know that I have people in my family that don’t understand that we should cherish our elders. My father in law always said, “Do things for people while they are alive or you may regret it.”
We have a different situation. Our dad is extremely non compliant as far as letting medical professionals and home health aids in the home. Out mom has alzheimers. Dad only wants family and he was recently hospitalized as a result. He was always the caretaker of everyone until mom's illness. Since he is mentally competent it is within his right to throw all outside help out. We, his children can't be martyrs. We visit, and with the help of his urse, continue to try to convince him to accept pt and a home health aid parttime. He will end up back in hospital due to extreme denial. Any suggestions?
The subject isn't funny, but every time some expert tells us we need to lose weight, become a vegan or comes up with a new list of "shoulds" that will extend our lives, I think, please, what for? Who truly wants to live past a certain age? Granted, I'm 63, healthy enough, try to stay busy and active, not a smoker or drinker and not eager to depart this life right now, but the thought of living more than another 20 years on this earth just does not appeal. (And I'm not advocating any kind of euthanasia, by the way).
Ginger...

People have different inclinations, interests and priorities.

Your sister wanted her kids to have a nice, jolly Christmas. Not actually evil of her, I'm sure you'll agree?

Your 25 year old nephew has something to learn about engaging his brain before opening his mouth. Does what he said mean that he wasn't bothered that his poor Granny was too ill to join in? I doubt if he'd even considered the question from that point of view.

The thing is... if you want people, especially young people, to think about things more widely and have more consideration for others, you have to prompt them. A gently humorous "I'm sure Granny wouldn't have got ill if she'd known it would ruin your day, darling boy" might pull him up more effectively than your criticising him to his mother and then simmering about it for weeks afterwards.

I like elderly people. I am interested in their lives and their experience, and I always have been. I never found my grandmother boring (intimidating, yes, but that's different). My siblings, on the other hand, protested every time she telephoned, visited or invited us over as though she were some sort of social intruder. Well, here's one result of the different attitudes to older relatives.

When my great aunt died aged 99¾, I took it on myself to draft an address for the funeral officiant to read. My sister said to me afterwards: "where did you get all that from? I didn't know any of that." What could I say to her? - try asking, dear Henry; except that of course it was now too late. And sister was the one who'd missed out, especially on the spicier anecdotes which I'd felt weren't suitable for a funeral.

I think you should leave your sister in peace. It's not for you to say how she brings up her children, does Christmas or includes her parents in her world view. And I'm not sure who will benefit if you still feel the same next December and refuse an invitation to join them (if issued, of course) on principle.

But if you feel your parents and your sister's children would benefit from interaction, suggest it! Ask them to come with you to prune the hedges one Saturday morning, or rehang the curtains. Tell them their grandparents would love to see them. Make every suggestion refusable - you want volunteers, not conscripts - and see what happens.

Try not to make it an issue of age and respect for elders. Try treating all of the parties involved as *people* - members of a family who, in the general run of things, can be expected to want to know one another.
Well I can certainly identify with self-absorbed sibling! I am bored of hearing, 'You can't make people do something if they don't want to'. Young people learn from example. People get caught up with their own priorities. It's all very well being there at the funeral with flowers and saying I loved them. Love is about being present and then our parents, in their final leg of their journey, might feel valued and actually smell the flowers when they can!!
It is sad but all of us can see the decline in our society for respect for and value of elders. I don’t blame your dad for feeling as he does. We generally live in a more self absorbed society. While you can’t change the values of your siblings and their children you can reflect to them your attitude and values. I think as we the baby boomers get even older, we will be shocked how the younger treat us.
As young people become more absorbed into the world of technological devices and less interested in conversation, I’ve noticed their skills at simple customer service is lacking. Many can’t even mumble a simple thank you, when handing you your fast food order, or check out at a store.
Some Young people are uncomfortable being around aging people. Even adults are reminded unconsciously that they will one day be old so they don’t want to face it. I remember as a teenager how I hated seeing my grandfather become "senile" as we called it back then. It’s up to us to educate people on how to treat and see elders.
Your parents world is narrowing in which is typical as we age. Sad..yes...but not unusual. I’m sure we will be saying the same things they are if we live that long. Talk to a geriatric psychologist or read up on the subject to understand it better. You sound like a very caring daughter and are doing the best you can.
I would first suggest heeding the advice of Countrymouse who offers excellent insight and help.
I have a different perspective as the caregiver for my wife who suffered a sci leaving her paralyzed. We are younger than your parents but I see the effect of what you describe from the actions of our (2) adult daughters. I have tried talking with them and it always amazes me how much they do not understand about their Moms condition she's had for over 10 years now. At times they give the impression that the light of empathy was turned on but than it quickly fades. I think the situation is too much for them to deal with so they choose to avoid it. I long for them to just spend time with her but have come to accept they are the ones who will live with their decision after she is gone.
You sound like a daughter your parents should be very proud of and I would suggest to do what is in your own heart and live by being an example. Take the gift you see before you and leave the quilt to them.

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