Can't hold off the sunset

Lately I’ve noticed the great similarities between having a child and having an elderly person. Really.  Well, up to a point:

When you’re having a baby, you get all the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”-type books that walk you through every detail of pregnancy, childbirth and life thereafter.  Your friends shower you with gifts of heretofore unknown products like baby-wipe warmers and specialized dishwasher inserts, etc.  Then for the first few years of parenthood, you find yourself hauling that extra equipment everywhere;  loading a child into the car for a trip to the mall or doctor takes an inordinate amount of planning, time and precision;  strollers are folded and packed in just so, diaper bags loaded with all the necessary meds, foods and other supplies, toys strategically placed for maximum entertainment value, children meticulously strapped in, etc.  When you get to your destination, you do it again backwards, unloading, unfolding, unbuckling, etc.  But you feel a certain confidence, as friends and relatives have coached you and outfitted you with the proper equipment and all is loving and good and for the most part the children involved are willing and pliant (okay, forget that part…).

Now let’s say that instead of having a baby, you’re having an elderly person…or two!  Not many instruction books available…usually no 9-month pregnancy period to get used to the idea and “study up”…and no…NO ELDERLY SHOWER!  Nobody gives you the equipment you need;  in fact, nobody even mentions WHAT equipment you might need!  One day you’re frustrated about a certain problem or issue and you head to the Internet and punch “how to help Dad get into bed” into your search engine and Voila!  You find out that there are bed-rails, designed to assist the elderly with the ins and outs of bedtime and turning over, etc. Amazing!  And so it begins…you’re amassing a hoard of specialized equipment again, that needs to be hauled around every time you work up the bravery to go somewhere.   Once again you’re folding and packing things into the trunk, packing a bag with essential meds and foods and whatevers, strategically loading passengers into the car (made more difficult by the fact that you can’t lift them into the car like you can the kids), etc.  When you arrive at the destination, its all reversed…unloading, putting equipment back together, assisting in movement….*whew!  It takes time and patience, as every trip takes at least twice as long as you’d think.

And here’s the kicker…the certain confidence is not there as it was with the children;  there are no cute little babies for people to ooh and aah over as they give you advise, most people don’t know you’re a caregiver or don’t really understand what that means, and they can’t coach you because they haven’t “been there” yet.

This is not the joyful time….this, for the most part, is the sad sunset of life, when we are seeing loved ones decline and become less capable of doing the things they once could do. Emotion gets in the way, in the form of frustration, sadness, and a sense of helplessness.

Society needs to change this!  I have a feeling that with the “bell curve” of Baby Boomers now starting to care for their elderly parents (who are living longer this generation), we just may start to see more highly-publicized social programs and assistance.

In the meantime, I just keep going back to the Internet and any community assistance programs I can find, soaking up as much information as I can.  Each week brings new nuances…changes, adjustments, needs…we just keep trying to keep up with it all!

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