Millions of baby boomers are now spending much of their lives caring for elderly parents, a journey that can be filled both with stress and joy. Producer Stephen Hegg relates his personal story.
Like most folks in their nineties, they have issues—hearing and memory loss, and some medical problems. But things went well until last year, when it was obvious that they needed a higher level of care. Mom couldn’t keep her medications straight, causing other problems. It was time for them to move from independent to assisted living. Dad refused, even though it was in the same complex. "No more change," he said.
And then came the fall.
We—my brothers and I—knew that one of them would probably fall at some point. It is the number-one job, after a certain age, to stay upright. We always thought it would be Mom falling and breaking her hip, since she had become more and more unsteady. But it was Dad who fell.
"He was in the kitchen making breakfast as he always did," says Mom. "And all of a sudden I heard him screaming louder than anything." And he didn't stop. She can’t forget his screams.
The fall changed everything. Dad had broken his 92-year old leg—his femur. The repair was difficult, screwing and lashing his brittle bones together, hoping for the best.
Family SupportSo for the first time in 72 years, Mom and Dad were apart. While Dad was in the hospital, we moved Mom to assisted living. We tried to make the new apartment as similar as possible to the old one. Everybody came together then to get Mom settled after so much change and trauma. My brothers and their spouses, though some live far away, all pitched in. This was a different ball game. We're lucky—we all get along. I can't imagine being able to do it by yourself, or how a family that has differences or dysfunction comes together as a team. Keith, Mark and Phil came across state and country to spend time with Mom, sleeping on an air mattress in the tiny living room.
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Caring for Aging Parents