Inside Out 238: Emotions of Elder Care

02.29.12 | Martha Manikas-Foster

I want our parents to be healthy forever. I want to know that they will always have advice when we’re making big decisions. I want to believe that they will always be autonomous, always responsible, always capable.

So it just doesn’t feel natural to be in charge of my in-laws’ care.

But it doesn’t seem to matter if it feels natural, because as the American population ages, more and more of us will be moving parents into our homes or into assisted living facilities down the road. We’ll be taking Mom and Dad to doctor’s appointments, reminding them of their children’s birthdays, and checking with the nursing staff for any behavior changes.

And even if I want to go back to debating the merits of the NIV and the KJV over supper or asking my father-in-law to tell us again about serving in both the Atlantic and the Pacific theaters of World War II, the fact is that, instead, we’re putting away my in-laws’ laundry and reminding them what day of the week it is.

Between the years of 2000 and 2030 the number of people over age 65 is expected to more than double, and unpaid family caregivers are expected to be the largest source of their long-term care. While I am not helping to care for my in-laws in our home, over 45 percent of Americans think it is a good idea for older people to share a home with their grown children.

Are we ready for the emotions that will come with parenting our parents? Are all those care-givers—potentially most of us---prepared for how we’ll feel when we come face-to-face with frailty and dependence in the same people who taught us how to balance both a bicycle and a checkbook?

If you are in the middle of this, know people in your church who are caring for their parents, or see a future that will include supervising the care of your elders--I invite you to listen for some insight from Inside Out guest Karen Swallow Prior. She’s the author of a recent her.meneutics blog post titled “Scared to Death of Death: Facing More Than Gramma’s Mortality.”

(Click here:

Prior is chair of the English and Modern Languages Department at Liberty University and the author of scholarly and popular articles. For a list of her her.meneutics blog posts, click here:



Your Comments(please keep them on topic and polite)

on 03.01.12 Sharyn Skinner commented

I caught part of this news and I am right in the middle of this with my Mom. Was just able to get her a semi-private room in assisted living and move her there from rehab in a nursing home where she has been for 3 months after breaking her hip on Thanksgiving--then pneumonia/CHF/and back to pneumonia. She is doing well now and I hope that she will adapt. Lost my Dad about 3 years ago----they were married almost 70 years and dated 8 years prior to that. Mom has done well considering everything but for the past 6 years I have truly been the "peanut butter & jelly of the sandwich"! Juggling between children, grandkids (7) and parents is truly hard. (My only sibling lives in FLorida.) Many of my friends from high school and college are going through the same thing. We stay in touch to help each other out. Thank you for your input and I think that after I get Mom moved, reading the book will be in order.

on 03.01.12 Barb Faith commented

While going through this, I just have to keep reminding myself to enjoy the time that I have with my mom and not focus on the fact that she is declining. She is in a nursing home. I have found also that it is a good idea to get to know the caregivers, spend time asking them questions and be friendly. These people are your primary caregivers to your loved one and it is a good idea to not jump to conclusions or place blame. Often times nursing homes are short staffed and the workers get tired, a smile can really energize and change the atmosphere for the better in an already tense situation. As hard as it is, visit your loved one as often as possible so you know what is going on and are aware of any problems. I am going through this alone, so for me, above all else, go to God daily. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding......"

on 03.07.12 Martha commented

Thanks for the input, Sharyn and Barb. Talking about what has helped each of us is how I am seeing people navigate this stage in life.

* Thank God for the chance to keep loving the people who took care of us.

* Get to know--and really care about--the people who have direct contact with our loved ones.

* Trust God--who loves us and our parents.

A great foundation for moving forward. Thanks for sharing from your journeys.




Inside Out airs Wednesdays at 12:20pm EST during the Family Life Noon Report.


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