Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Parents getting older

The hardest part about getting older is watching my parents get older. My Mom stopped working when she married my Dad and followed him around the world as his company stationed him in Asia, Europe and the US. She was always very independent finding volunteer opportunities and interests every place they went. My father would sometimes go on business trips that would last weeks and at one point was dividing his time between US and Denmark spending months in DK and then home got a few weeks then back.
I never heard her complain about any of this, she just did what she needed to do to keep our family going.

Five years ago she was diagnosed with MS. It is unusual to be diagnosed so late in life. It's a disease with no cure. The medications available are used simply to slow the progression. She used to love to spend a day wandering around NYC or Copenhagen or whatever city they were living in at the time, going to museums, shopping or whatever. Now there is no way she could do that. She gets tired walking one block. She uses a cane fairly often but is too proud to get a walker. She used to drive, but no longer feels comfortable doing it so my Dad does all the driving. When she first called to tell me about the diagnosis she was obviously upset but the thing that still sticks with me is when she said that she was supposed to be taking care of my Dad not the other way around. He immediately chimed in that she shouldn't feel that way, and that he would take care of her. And to his credit he has. He doesn't cook, but he will now do a lot of the things she used to do for him, fixing his own breakfast and lunch, going to the supermarket with her, and other little things that may not seem like much but she used to do everything for him, like many wives of that generation did and now he's had to become more I dependent and helpful. Which is nice to see. They also hold hands now sometimes which they never really did before and is sweet.

She still has trouble asking for help and gets frustrated that she can't help me more when she comes to visit. I tell her not to worry about it but I know it hurts her pride that she is now dependent on others for many things, and the way this disease is, it's only going to get worse not better.

Now my Dad is starting to have tremors and getting forgetful. He put off going to the doctor for a while. He's always been good about yearly checkups but wouldn't really go in between those visits or bring up other problems when he went. Finally my Mom was noticing he was getting forgetful and he is having blood work, MRIs and other tests to see what the problem is and what treatment may be available. The hard part is that he may end up losing his license. They're lucky that public transport is good where they live but for my Mom to walk to and from the bus-stop would be a challenge. She says she would maybe have to start driving again but I don't if that's really an option either. At this point they are letting him keep his license pending a verdict from some head doctor.

The hardest part though is that neither of them really like talking about any of this stuff, and yet they live thousands of miles away so I can't go check on them that often. They come to visit us once or twice a year as it has been easier for them to come to us than us traveling with 3 kids but after their next trip at Thanksgiving, we'll probably have to switch that.

And then to top it off my father-in-law after months of tests and baffled doctors was diagnosed with something called necrotizing myopathy. An autoimmune disease that battles your muscles, making them weak and making it hard for him to move or lift things. He was diagnosed a couple of months ago and has since been getting treatment and doing physical therapy. He's doing much better in a fairly short time. He'll probably never be back to completely 100% but at least he's headed in the right direction again. They also live thousands of miles away so we can't really help them, but at least they are more open and honest about their health. They want to move closer to us as my husband is an only child but they can't afford to do it until they can sell their house which in this market is not feasible.  My mother-in-law is at the moment the only one who's doing fine, and to her credit has also stepped up and done a lot of things for herself and her husband that he used to do for her.

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