My parents were older when they had me, their only child. My mom had just turned 37 a few weeks before I was born and my dad was almost 40. He retired while I was in college. All my life my folks were the “old” ones – closer in age, and often in lifestyle, to my friends’ grandparents than to their parents.
I was barely into my forties when I lost my father. For a long time, I felt cheated out of the years I thought I should have had with him – would have had, if only I hadn’t been born so late in his life. My mom has been hospitalized four times in the last six years, and every time I’ve been terrified of losing her, too. I’ve wished that we could have more time. She will be 86 in June and has some pretty significant health issues (congestive heart failure, chronic kidney disease) along with the dementia, so I know our time left together is limited.
Today I was perusing the Alzheimer’s Association message boards and was struck by the number of people in their late fifties through late sixties who are caring for parents (or spouses) with dementia. These caregivers are old enough to have a lot of their own health issues, to sometimes lack the physical strength necessary for the hard work of caregiving, perhaps starting to have concerns about their own failing memories. I realized that, in many ways, I am lucky to be facing the challenge of caring for my mother while I’m still relatively young and healthy. It’s exhausting enough working a full-time job and then putting in an average of 20 hours a week with my mom. The stress of it has definitely aggravated both my acid reflux and my migraines. I can’t imagine doing all of this if I had any more serious health issues.
From another perspective, my mom is lucky to be facing all of this with a daughter by her side who is able and willing to care for her, whatever it takes.