‘Elder care is the new child care’

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Photo courtesy rockinghorseranch.com

I love this image: seniors sharing time, community, stories, perhaps common histories—but what to do when you’re the support and your ‘I don’t like old people’ parent doesn’t want to be a part of that picture? Welcome to my life 🙂

I was looking for an expression describing those of us who are adult only children—without kids of our own we’re not exactly the sandwich generation (apparently I could be deemed an ‘open-faced sandwich’) but we have no siblings with whom we can share the care, we’re a single slice sandwich or yes, I suppose, the open-faced variety.

I didn’t coin the headline, it comes courtesy of a great Globe and Mail piece from Elizabeth Church speaking with Linda Duxbury a Carleton University business professor who has spent a career looking at work-life balance. While I don’t approach this subject from an academic perspective it is a daily life perspective and has been for the past nine years since my father passed away leaving my 79 year old mother solo three hours away.

Rest assured my posts on elder care will be interspersed with others on all things real estate, home and lifestyle but a very real part of lifestyle for many of us is the role reversal that can happen with an aging parent. As an only child who’d been living a few hours from my hometown I knew I didn’t want my last months and years to be a weekend here and there plus holidays, and it was clear at a point that my remaining parent needed more support, living alone worked for a few years but then the ground shifted again. More than a few find themselves in this same situation.

When you’re a family of three you become acutely aware in the advancing years of your role, and you know that once your parents are gone your immediate family is no more. Of course not everyone is going to have the same relationships, options, capabilities, I’m lucky in that my mother’s always been game for adventure and generally speaking she’s an easy personality. This is simply my experience and I hope others will share, perhaps you’ll offer up your own tips—survival and otherwise…

There’s much to consider: when should a parent look at downsizing, the downsizing itself can be an experience! and then to what sort of accommodation? There are various assisted living situations, independent living with support in home, The Care Guide is a fantastic resource to start with. Then there’s old school going it alone and hoping for the best, not uncommon, that was my father’s plan and it’s often the plan that makes adult children crazy: ‘Come on, give me an inch here’ has come to mind and mouth from time to time. And then there’s my plan: I sold my Toronto house, moved life and career then moved my mother into a new (big enough) home with us outside the city, it’s been gratifying and, to be honest, challenging at times.

There are pluses and minuses to every scenario (and sometimes those pluses and minuses hop columns depending on the day). There is tremendous satisfaction in offering a senior parent new experiences, it’s far too easy to spend those years sitting alone ‘same old, same old’, there is peace knowing the essentials of safety and decent meals are taken care of; there are also sacrifices, frustrations, caregiver fatigue is very real.

So, watch for the next post as we dive in and please opt into the conversation with your own experiences, good or bad—we can all learn a little something from one another and as we say, there is strength in numbers!

One day we’ll be there…Heed the wise words of author/playwright James Baldwin:

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