Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Watching your parents age, helplessly


Just returned from a trip to visit my mom and stepdad, but it wasn't exactly a "vacation."

That's because, in addition to facing financial difficulties that will be causing them to have to move within the next few months, they are also suffering from various health problems, ranging from the mild and manageable (my mom) to the severe and restricting (my stepdad.)

So, I spent the better part of five days on household projects to help Mom cull through and get rid of everything from some of their book collection (which consists of hundreds of books!), to consignable clothing items (hey, that's a cute dress! Maybe you could get some money for it!), to long-outdated canned and jarred foods in the pantry (umm, care for some peas from 2001? Didn't think so!).

I also watched my mother deal with Peter's physical ailments, which have made him all but sedentary and include diabetes, poor eyesight, poor hearing, high blood pressure, poor circulation, and wounds on his feet that won't heal. This last issue has become so severe that he recently had an operation to remove about 1/4 of his foot, in an attempt to save the foot. So, Mom has to change the dressing on the wound (she made me take a peek -- ick! No way could I ever be a nurse!), and she also was learning how to administer twice-daily doses of a super-antibiotic he was prescribed.

Watching Mom have to wait on Peter hand-and-foot was especially tough, for as much as I felt sorry for the guy -- his quality of life has pretty much evaporated in the past couple of years -- I was also angry and resentful that it has come to this. For, though some of his health problems are age-related (he is 76), a great deal of them are direct results of poor lifestyle choices he made throughout his life. Such as: smoking cigarettes (which he did not give up for good until about five years ago, after the doctor scared the crap out of him by threatening to have to cut off his leg if he didn't quit), exercising sporadically (at one point, however, he did play tennis and golf regularly), and gorging himself on sweets such as sugary sodas and candies, junk foods such as chips and cookies, and carb-loaded foods such as pastas and breads, thus gaining about 40 pounds -- mostly in the gut.

And the strain of it is getting to Mom, who has developed her own health issues such as elevated blood pressure and low B-12 levels, and is looking decidedly older by the day. At 76, she is still relatively healthy, thank God, but the stress is taking a toll that is indeed alarming.

For, if she keels over dead from the burden of running their life and being his caregiver, lord know I don't want to have to care for him (I'd kill him in about a day!).

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