What Should I Do With My Aging Parents?

A Little Lesson

Read the transcript of this video below.

What should I do with my aging parents? This is a question that’s very close to me because both of my parents, my mother and father, are now with the Lord.

Picture of child holding elderly parent's hand

I lost my mom about four years ago. I lost my dad just a few months ago. Prior to my dad’s passing, and my mom’s passing, both of them lived with myself and my wife (and our kids, when they were still living at home prior to their marriages). So we were, very, very, very close.

My parents loved the Lord, and it was evident in their lives. It was a joy, really, to have them live with us, although my mother developed aphasia, which started showing up in her daily life when she couldn’t remember nouns. We’d hold an object up and say, “Mom, what is this?” and she’d say, “Well, I know what it is, I know what that is, I just can’t think of the word for it,” and I’d say, “This is a grape,” and she would say “Oh, that’s right. That’s a grape.” Then you’d wait one minute, hold up the grape, and then ask again, “Mom, what is this?” And she would say, “Ah, I can’t think of the name of that.”

That got progressively worse, and my dear father did his best to care for her. He prioritized that. He put a lot of other things aside just to focus on my mother. The stress on him was incredible, but he persevered. Then she suffered a massive stroke and passed away a few days after that. It was bittersweet. We, of course, missed her, but we knew she was in Heaven, and the stress was off my dad. But that meant it wasn’t my mom and dad living with us. It was my dad, and my kids had all left the nest.

We loved having my dad live with us. He had kind of a separate apartment, so he was very independent, able to drive, and carried on a ministry serving every week in several assisted-living facilities, doing little church services, little Bible studies, for the elderly residents of those places.

But then my dad suffered a stroke that disabled him. It changed his personality a little bit, but more evident, he lost his dexterity, he was unable to walk. His one side had been paralyzed, basically, and through therapy and rehabilitation, he did improve, but eventually plateaued. So he was bound to a wheelchair, couldn’t get out of bed himself, and so forth. He went through residential therapy for several months after his stroke, and then it kind of plateaued at a skilled nursing facility where he was. The professionals there told him, “Your insurance is not going to pay for this any longer, so you have to leave, and you need to go to an assisted-living facility.”

My dad said, “No, no, no. I’m going to go home and live with my son and his wife.” He never really offered any of us any other option than that. Of course, we loved him. We wanted to do what was best for him. I’m sure that’s what you would want done for you, and I’m sure that’s what you would do for anyone that you loved, parent or sibling or whatever. That’s what you do, and so many, many people do this.

Of course, some people are able to retire, or they are retired by that point in time when their parents need all that care, and so they’re able to devote their full amount of time to them, and that’s very admirable of them. My hat’s off to them. We tried this, but it brought a lot of stress to my life just because I was trying to hold down my own full-time job as well as other responsibilities I had outside my job as well as take care of my dad.

Again, he couldn’t get out of a chair without help. He couldn’t go to the bathroom without help. He couldn’t take a shower, bathe himself. He needed a lot of care, and so I did my very best to try to do that for as long as I could and eventually realized, “I can’t do this.” We began to bring in helpers and so forth, private aids, and some agency aids and so forth, but it was extremely stressful. I’m probably talking to a lot of people here who themselves are at that place or they know that that day could come for them.

Well, that’s the difficulty. It’s not an easy decision to know what to do. But I’ve been talking the last couple of Little Lessons about some peculiarities of the Amish, and I have some good friends among them. I’ve asked them, “What do you do with your elderly parents when they’re not able to function independently any longer?” I, of course, knew the answer, but I just wanted to hear what they’d say. I said, “Do you have a special home that you put them in?” “Oh, no, no, no. We care for them in our own homes until they die.”

But then my one very close Amish friend said, “We have a saying amongst us.” He said, “One sick person can kill two healthy people.” Now, let that sink in for a minute because there’s so much wisdom and truth in that. One sick person can kill two healthy people. He’s referring to the fact that it brings so much stress and strain into a household, into a family, when an elderly adult needs a lot of assistance and attention. This is why so many people wind up having to put their parents into assisted-living facilities, and of course, everyone’s situation is different.

I’ve asked the question, and I’m not going to fully answer it on this Little Lesson (I’m going to have to continue talking about this in the next one), “What do you do with your elderly parents?” Well, you love them as best you can, but you also have to be realistic, and that’s the most difficult thing because those two things clash with each other, and our realism clashes with our love.

For me, being so close to my dad for so long and him living with us, I could never tell him, “No, you can’t come home and live with us.” Of course, we wanted him home. We never wanted him to be in an assisted-living facility, but here’s what happened. Under all the stress of trying to take care of my dad, hold down my job, take care of other responsibilities, and so forth, I had a stroke myself. It was not a full-blown stroke. It’s what’s called a mini-stroke, but I woke up one morning with a strange sensation in my head. I tried to button my shirt, and my hand kept falling off my shirt. I tried to tie me shoes, and my one hand kept falling off my shoe. I knew something was wrong. My wife rushed me to the emergency room at the local hospital, and they diagnosed me. “You had a mini-stroke. All your symptoms will probably resolve themselves in a day or two,” which they did.

Well, I’m out of time for today’s Little Lesson. I think I’ll pick up right here on tomorrow’s Little Lesson. I hope you’ll join me.