Mid-Life Children and Senior Parents

There are a lot of jokes made about a midlife crisis, but there’s nothing funny about the challenges an aging parent and a son or daughter experience in these years.   There are difficult and delicate situations unique to this season of life between parent and mid-life son or daughter

The previous post dealt with how parents sometimes feel towards their children when Dad and Mom are in mid-life years.  Now let’s flip the context.

Children’s Feelings Towards Parents at Mid-Life

Here are a few struggles adult children sometimes experience during their mid-life years with senior parents.

  • “I’m worried about your financial decisions”.  There is an entire industry that is centered on taking advantage of the elderly . Couple that with a susceptibility that sometimes accompanies those that are older and it is a recipe for disaster.

I know of a situation where an unscrupulous contractor gave a bid on a job for a senior, collected his fee from a personal check, and never returned to do the work.  The check was cashed and was written for over $20,000.   It created a nightmare for the family to try and recover the money, both with time and paying attorneys.

Those in their senior years are targeted by crooked organizations soliciting money to support “noble” causes, at least in name.   And again, multiple checks are written to support these “charities”.    I know personally where this has happened.

This is difficult for mid-life sons and daughters to watch happen.

Because we honor our parents we respect their privacy and autonomy.  This creates a tension between their independence and our wanting to help them make wise financial choices when they may be vulnerable.

Of course, not all senior adults have this problem.   I don’t mean to broad brush; but it is a problem for many.

Christmastime with my sweet Mom!

Another concern that often surfaces…..

  • “I’m worried about your health”.     As we age disease or illness become our companions.   Pain becomes a part of life and it’s more difficult to walk and do the things one used to do.

My parents rarely went to the doctor through the first twenty years of my marriage, but that began that change in my forties.   Now, my Mom will go to the doctor a couple of times a month.    We have regular conversations about her health we never had years before.

Some of my friends (all of them in their mid-life years) have had the sad experience of helping an aging parent through Altzheimers disease.  One friend wept often with me as his mother battled this terrible disease.

One day I visited a friend in his office and on his desk was a book about dementia. He was reading it to help one of his parents.    Some attend classes to help equip them for this new season of life as they assist their parents.

We never think of having to research and learn about these issues in our 20’s or 30’s.   But this is a reality for many in the mid-life stage.   It not only affects the parents, but also the children.

Others have experienced a parent getting lost while driving and not being able to navigate their way home.    No one knows where they are; they don’t know where they are.   It’s frightening for everyone.

Mom and Dad at Opryland Hotel on one of his bus trips. This was one of their favorite places to go. This picture was taken about 10 months before Dad’s stroke.

Some would feel toward their parents at this time…

  • “I’m worried about your ability to keep up with your house”.    All homes require maintenance; things need to be repaired.   Upkeep requires both energy and finances, both of which many aging parents lack.

They have every right to live where they want to and we should do all we can to make that happen.    Often, senior adults downsize and want to move to a place that is more suitable.   For example, a place that only has one floor rather than to having climb stairs.

But it is a concern for mid-life sons and daughters.

Another struggle for some…

  • “I’m worried about your unrealistic expectations of me”.   This is one of the greatest tensions of all.   No one wants to give up their independence and parents can interpret genuine concern from adult children as ingratitude or manipulation. 

This is exacerbated when there are unresolved conflicts simmering between them.   Now words are easily exchanged that never would have in the past.   Sometimes brutally.

I read an article in USA Today that the front part of our brain begins to diminish in  function as we grow older.  One of it’s purposes is to filter our words, that we would not say that which is unwise.  As the filter decreases, so our raw and hurtful words increase. 

Combine that with unresolved issues from the past that are mentally rehearsed (negative words, lack of gratitude, absence of affirmation) with both parties and it brings increased severity of conflict.   Guilt that has not been resolved results in a surface relationship that is waiting to destruct.

This time of life can be what lights that fuse.

One final area of concern…

“I’m worried about you leaving me”.    The closer the relationship, the deeper this emotion.

My father had a stroke and gradually began to weaken because of heart disease.   It was difficult for me to see him slowly decline and realize that he was in the process of dying.

I was talking with a close friend during this season who had also lost his father a few years earlier and he could sense my sadness.   He asked me, “Rick, do you feel like you are grieving your father’s death before he is gone?”

That was exactly what was happening.  I didn’t want to lose my father and my heart was hurting.  Though Dad was a believer in Christ, going to Heaven and had everything to gain, the anticipation of the losses I would experience were heavy.

I’ve not written this to excuse adult children not to care for their parents, but to help us understand some of the emotions of this time of life.   Also, I wanted to encourage those in their younger years to consider some of the possible issues they might experience in the future and also to realize the massive indebtedness they have to Mom and Dad.

One of Dad’s good qualities is that he didn’t speak negatively about people. He was an encourager.

We must not forget that our parents gave their time and their lives for us when we were helpless and now it is a privilege to return our love for them, even though it intrudes on our schedule.   How often did they stay up all night rocking us when we couldn’t sleep and drove us thousands of times to practices, school, and youth activities because we couldn’t do so ourselves.

All of these items I’ve listed mentioned involve an investment of time on the part of the mid-life son or daughter.  And love demands we do that.

About familyencouragement

Pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. Married for 41 years with seven children and nine grandchildren.
This entry was posted in Aging parents, conflict, Family Issues, Father, Mid-life issues, Mother, Parenting, Senior adult issues and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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