Last month a bunch of family was gathered at my Sister in law’s house to celebrate the birthday of my niece and nephew.  As my Father in law pounded his third donut, or devil dog, or whatever sugary treat my Husband asked: ”

Hey Dad. How are your triglycerides?

My FIL responded- “Look at me.  Do I look 81.  Good genes I tell you.”

To be fair, FIL is an a decent weight and is generally healthy, but his triglyceride number is out of the park. And then my Husband added-

“I know.  But that mini stroke you had…that was a warning sign…”

My FIL looked at him quizzically.  “I didn’t have a mini stroke.  I’m the healthiest man alive.  I’m a specimen…..” Enter more machismo here.

My Husband and his cousin looked at one another. “Yes you did.  About eight years ago. When you were still with G (his girlfriend who passed away about five years ago)

And this discussion went on for a bit, my FIL proclaiming he is the healthiest man alive, and the others at the table sitting and staring and worrying.

So what do you do when you parents start forgetting their health issues? I know we like to forget things that are unpleasant, but….how do you forget that you were in the hospital for a mini stroke?

B (the cousin) said that her parents are starting to forget their medical histories too- which drugs they’re on, when they took them, if they’re supposed to take them….

Are we supposed to send our parents out in the world with a yellow card on a lanyard around their neck? Lists of allergies and conditions and medications tattooed to their arms?

How are we supposed to take care of the people that took care of us?

My Mom can tell you what happened on February 27, 1967.  She can tell you about February 27, 1981.  But I don’t think she can recall much of February 27, 2019. My Mother and Daughter are huge Broadway fans, and my Mom was getting them tickets to a show.  My daughter gave her five dates that she DEFINATLY could go, and one date that she COULD NOT go.  You know my Mom bought tickets for the day my daughter couldn’t go…

My Mom is one of those no list/no planner type of people.  She has always relied on her actually quite excellent memory.  But guess what? Her memory is not quite the absorbent sponge that it once was- it’s dry now, and she refuses to do anything to help.  She won’t write things down.  She won’t set reminders.

How am I supposed to explain to her that she needs to help herself a little bit?

We have all established that we relish our independence. We want to go down swinging. And we really don’t want to ask our children for help. They’re our kids: we raised them: what do they know about taking care of us.

If we let our children care for us, we cease being parents. We become the parented. Who wants to accept that reality?


How do you get your parents to accept help and guidance? How do you tactfully explain that you aren’t trying to ruin their lives, you’re just trying to make their lives better. How do you deal with your parents acting like teenagers who just don’t want to listen?

How do we help the people we love most in the world?


64 thoughts on “Parenting your Parents

  1. I don’t think there’s a one size fits all answer to that profound question. You do what you can in each moment with an eye to making each parent as comfortable and safe as possible in that moment. You’re walking in shifting sands, always– when dealing with the elderly.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Difficult situations, for sure, and I imagine that each case is a bit different. In this particular instance that you begin with, possibly the primary care physician could become more involved to go over the full medical picture? As for the more general idea that parents decline and may not be totally aware or willing to accept more help, I think that it’s the children as much as the parents who may have trouble facing this eventuality. Some seniors may not have trouble becoming more dependent on others, while some will fight it tooth and nail. For minor ‘slip-ups’ that we notice, we might strongly suggest writing more reminders down so that dates aren’t forgotten, setting timers to remember the pan on the stove, etc. We can’t really ‘make’ someone do this, of course. In the more difficult cases, possibly talking with your parents alone, almost like you’re enlisting their help, and sharing that this is hard for you, too, will appeal to the ‘parents’ inside of them, instead of making them feel like ‘children,’ who are being told that they aren’t allowed to do something. Talking with friends who might be going through the same types of issues might be helpful, and there are also support groups, both in-person and online.

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  3. It’s scary, huh? My husband’s dad changed from strong, tall, busy, healthy, opinionated patriarch when he got dementia. He started falling down and lost bowel control. They had no choice but to put him in a nursing home because they couldn’t lift him and kept having to call 911. It was the most awful sad thing I’ve ever been through and it devastated my husband. His mom on the the hand had a good mind until the end but her heart was bad for about 10 years and the medications kept putting her into the hospital. She’d fill up with fluid then they’d dehydrate her and she’d pass out. The realities of being over 50 are not just about us. 😦 As to your questions, you just do it, like you do it for teenagers, you monitor them and keep your own calendar and lists of what they should be doing. You question them, check on them, remind them. They won’t like it. Sigh. And it could also be us or our husbands. Hopefully our kids will do the same for us.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. In India, we live with our parents. Most listen when they know their body is sending signals. Since my parents are on restricted diet, we all follow the same. So when I show I support them and live the same lifestyle, it becomes the norm and very easy. My parents listen to me and I still listen to them and obey them. Since they are my best friends and I am theirs, it works. There are fights but at the end of it, we are a team.

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  5. My mom doesn’t remember the numerous falls she’s had.

    Re: living with your parents….I think that may work for some but not for others? My grandma lived with my mom/family at differing points over 20 years. It put tremendous strain on my mom on so many levels. She was under 5 foot tall though, so that made things a little easier.

    My dad passed away when he was 65. I’m not sure how one person would have been able to care for him at home had he stopped being able to walk. He was 6 foot 5, a full foot taller than my mom. That would have been a lot to manage.

    I would offer for my mom to live with me, but it would put a constant strain on my family

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Yep, going through those changes with my mom as well. She even tells people that I am her mother now. She sort of likes the attention 🙂 I tell her that I am doing/saying these things to keep her around longer.

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  7. my parents are like naughty little children …. they’ll wait until none of us “kids” are there at the farm to do stuff like get up on the barn roof.

    my step-dad is getting really forgetful especially since he turned 80 back in July. He didn’t remember ever taking the dogs to a particular vet, even though they have been taking their dogs to her for 2 years. His family is prone to dementia, so my sister and I are trying our best to watch and help if needed. Seeing my once workaholic parents fumbling around, falling down, forgetting things, etc. is really disconcerting to say the least. These next 10 years are going to be doozies.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Many years ago a Medical Doctor gave my father this gem of advice when discussing challenging parents, “it often helps to let the Grandchildren do the talking”, and yes I see the logic! Parents will never be lectured to by their child, HOWEVER Grandparents will forever wish to be loved by their Grandchildren and certainly will never chastise……. lol there’s logic in there somewhere!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I think my parents might listen to my daughter. But my fil…..let me give you an example. My daughter is a tennis player, not tournament level, but a solid high school player, and you….know she’s a teen. My 80 year old fil challenged her to a running race and a tennis match. He really thought he was going to beat her. I mean this legitimately….his ego is so large that he thinks he better than anyone at anything. Needless to say my daughter could have walked backwards and beat him at a race, and I don’t think he got a point off her at tennis. He has no conception that even though he’s in good shape he’s still 80

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Been there! My mother lived next door to us for 8 to 10 years and she fought me tooth and nail about everything. I went to her doctor’s appointments after a bit because she couldn’t tell me what he said. I had to have the doctor tell her she couldn’t drive anymore, that was not good. She got really snide with me and if I had talked to her like that I would have been backhanded so quick. I made a card for her that listed all her meds and pertinent info, laminated it and put it in her wallet, even if I were not there the info was there next to her insurance card. If your FIL wants to “forget” his mini stroke,, it may not be the fight you want to take on. I made sure my mother ate well, but I stopped reminding her what she should not eat. You may have to parent him but you are not his Doctor. My mom’s memory failed her a lot in the last few years of her life and I used to leave post it notes all around to remind her of important things. I really didn’t want to be fighting with her during her last years I figured she made it to 90 she could have her York Peppermint Paddies.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I go back and forth with that too. They make it to a certain age, let them enjoy. But my worry is that my fil will hav3 a bad stroke that leaves him impaired and then his quality of life will be horrible.


  10. I think whenparkspeaks makes a good point. You have to pick your battles. Are dietary restrictions at the age of 80 really that important? I don’t know. His bravado may be even fear-based because he doesn’t want to face the aging process.

    My mom had dementia and lived 1200 miles away. I was the primary caretaker. It was tough. My dad is still a spry, alert 82-year-old, and he just got a pacemaker. He’s realistic about his abilities, but he lives two states away. Based on my experience with my mom, I want to make things as easy as possible for my kids with thorough estate planning, etc. that was my mom’s best gift to me.

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    1. Agreed. I’ve already listed how I want thing to be taken care of so I don’t have my daughter making decisions she might have trouble with. With the diet, I totally get the let them enjoy thing. What I worry about is a debilitating stroke that leaves him alive, but significantly impaired. That’s not a lifestyle I wish on anyone

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  11. I’m sorry you are going through this, it is so hard. I’ve been there with both my parents and a great-aunt. I have no pearls of wisdom.
    I found it didn’t matter what I said or did when I left, they did what they wanted.
    All you can really do is what you, and what you feel they, are comfortable with you doing, then let the rest go. It is so hard because you love and care about them, but unfortunately, that’s reality.
    I’m not trying to be Gloomy Gus here, as I said, I’ve been there too and it is heartbreakingly sad to go through.
    Hugs, prayers and blessings~🤗🙏💖

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I think that is the question that everyone asks themselves. The whole thing scare me because I dont know. You have have to take it day and hope there is a blog or two to help you. Everyone is different. I know I’m being no help at all. I wish i could be of more help

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  13. I remember when my dad was sick and I was burning up the road from SC to VA for doctor visits and surgeries, then to stay with him post-op. He held my hand so tightly in his great big one and said, “I wish you were my mommy. You’re so good at it.”

    I once said to my own (younger) daughter, “Can’t you just be my mommy?” She squeezed me hard and said, “I’d love to be your mommy because you deserve a better on than you got. But if I’m your mommy, you can’t be my momma, and I need you to be my momma.” (just so we’re clear, I said this to her as an adult)

    My husband and I had dinner with friends last week, our friend was sharing how her grandmother moved from her aunt’s to her parent’s house and it was already causing problems. I have so much compassion, so much empathy for my friends with living parents and grandparents and the journey they’re about to go on. But honestly, there’s a part of me that is so relieved both my parents are deceased.

    I send much love to all of you with living parents, because soon, you will become their caregivers in some way or another. And they’re more than likely going to fight you every step of the way.
    May the Force be with you. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    1. And also with you…😉 thank you. There’s no stage of life that is easy. Just when you think you’re over the hump, boom, something else happens! And you’re a good mommy!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That was kind of you to say I’m a good mommy!
        I think you are too!
        Each new stage of life brings some new and wonderful, sometimes not so much things with it. This stage of my development is different than I ever expected. A bit better, a bit worse, but definitely surprising!
        Isn’t that life?

        Liked by 1 person

  14. There’s no simple answer. My father routinely refuses to follow medical advice or be examined by the doctor. He’s 90, he’s in a home, he’s happy. We can’t persuade him to do as he’s told so why make him unhappy by nagging?

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  15. Excellent post.
    I think each son or daughter has to sit down and help their parents make a list of medications, insurances, allergies, past operations, doctors etc. and type it up. Then make multiple copies, include who to call in an emergency and other emergency numbers, include their Medicare cards and Medicare suppliment numbers on the list too. I actually typed up a General list and passed it out at one of our condo meetings so everyone could fill it out on put a copy on their fridge. . (I live in a 55 and older development). Paramedics know to check for a list.

    This way, should an ambulance get called they can go right to the refrigerator and take the sheet. It’s even better to Put multiple sheets on the fridge and your parents can grab one every time they go to the doctors and hand it over to the nurse so that they can update his or her chart.

    After I had my accident a few years back I now make sure I have updated medical info on my fridge. Ready and Available. Every year I retype/update it and send a copy to my sons and to my sister. This way in an emergency they have all my info on file.

    Let’s face it,Nobody knows when any one of us might have a stroke or heart attack, so having medical records easily available is important. I’m sure there is probably an online general list you could find to use if you don’t want to create your own.

    I’m computer savvy, but for older adults, get them help from a younger relative who will create a medical list that can be easily updated every year. Then they don’t have to remember anything. Plus in an emergency nobody is thinking clearly.

    My neighbor had a stroke. (Her daughter lives out of state). She lay on the floor for 24 hours until the building captain and I called the police and they broke in to find her on the floor. If she had given someone her keys and had a copy of her medical info and phone numbers on her fridge things would have been easier. That’s when I made the emergency medical list with fill in the blanks and passed it out to everyone in my building.

    At some point, you just have to help your parents if they can’t do it by themselves. We’re all going to get old. So it is best to be prepared.
    I have a pdf of my medical list saved on my phone under iBooks and so it’s always with me. But I keep a copy on my fridge too. As I get older, especially since I live alone, then I never have to worry.
    I know it’s Weird that we all have to think about this, but it’s reality. Stuff happens.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! All excellent ideas and valid points. Now if we could only get everyone else to be as rational and pragmatic as you.


  16. Some of it may be selective memory. Not likely in the Broadway tickets snafu though. Grandmothers adore their granddaughters. Maybe if only viable dates were given? You have my sympathy. Both my parents are gone, and I miss them

    Liked by 2 people

  17. When I was tending to my father last year before he passed I made sure to explain to him everything I was working on. I had daily conversations with him to give him updates I received from his doctor or walk him through exactly what the latest letter from his doctor meant. I always asked him what he would like to do when a decision had to be made and let him know how I thought it should go to be in his best interest. It was difficult for sure, and yes, exactly like parenting my parent. It was sad and stressful, but at the same time it gave me more time with him than I had had in such a long time. I had been trying to balancing my family (spouse and two kids) and career and that took up most of my time. Having to help him with his health needs made me carve out more time for him and for that I am forever grateful. He would be stubborn at times, but he saw that I wanted what was best for him and to make him comfortable because I never made a decision without his input. I think that made a world of difference. Good luck!

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