When the End is near

Providing care for your adult parent during their retirement years can be a demanding job. And the job continues to become more demanding as your parent gets older and his or her health declines. You will have to make more and more difficult decisions as the end grows closer and many of them you will make without the consultation your elderly parent if his mental abilities have slipped away due to the affects of aging.

If the senior citizen you are caring for is dealing with a terminal illness that lingers, those demands will become virtually overwhelming. When the end is near like this, your need for assistance will become acute. This is no time to try to be stoic. Dealing with a dying senior citizen is something that is usually outside of the abilities of caregiver children.

If you see that time coming, now is the time to make arrangements for additional help. If funds are in his estate, you can arrange for in-home nursing care. These outstanding organizations can be with the senior citizen for as many hours as day as you need them to be and provide skilled medical care to minister to the demands of your parent’s terminal disease.

But once your doctor confirms that your parent is terminally ill, waste no time in getting hospice involved. This is a federally sponsored program that is part of Medicare and they are trained specifically in dealing with death and the dying with skilled care, equipment and medications that will cost your parent nothing and take a huge amount of stress off of you. Hospice has been a lifesaver for many a weary caregiver who is worn out from months or years of care giving and is incapable of dealing with the extra demands of the patient’s final months of life.

But there is an adjustment you as caregiver will have to make as the nursing care personnel and hospice begin to surround your parent more and more in preparation for his or her final days. You have been so intensely involved with every aspect of your parent’s needs. And you have done a good job of getting them this far. But now you have to step away and let these skilled professional caregivers provide the comfort and medical care that only they can give.

This may be difficult because your parent will still call for you to be nearby especially during these weeks. This is a time to bring in clergy, and to alert your siblings who may have to travel to be by mom’s bedside in her final days. While there will be tears, if they can be with her a little bit before the final moment comes, that is a closure for the family that is tremendously valuable. And it helps your aging parent to have her children close to her as she approaches her final transition to another life.

Hospice will help you go through the transition in your own mind and heart to accept that the passing is near. It will take some emotional courage to begin preparing for the funeral even though your parent is still with you. But this can also be a bittersweet time of sharing because if your parent accepts what is to come, she can have some say into what she wants to have happen at the funeral and about other final arrangements.

Perhaps the strangest transition that you alone as the primary caregiver will go through will happen in the days just after the passing. There is always a shock when your loved one dies even if it was very much anticipated. But you will go through another drastic set of emotions that can only be described as “separation anxiety”.

When you get that news that your parent has passed, you will suddenly feel the lifting of a burden that may have been on you for months or years. You no longer have to worry about your parent any more. You don’t have to go there, take care of her food or medicine and comfort her any more. The lifting of that pressure can be liberating and disorienting for you. You will feel strange throughout the funeral and the family times as well. But keep these feelings in your heart as well because they will be sensations that only you and others who have been primary caregivers will ever be able to understand.

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