Sharing the Aging Experience of a Parent

I have a friend who recently experienced the loss of her mother.  But that doesn’t begin to tell the story. 

Our parents are often healthy one day, and then suddenly something occurs that seems to change them instantly.  But was it really that sudden, or have there been signs that were missed or simply not understood?

img_warningsigns.jpgWhile sharing condolences with my friend over her loss, she expressed some aha moments that only became clear in hindsight.  I found them to be powerful observations that could serve as important learning opportunities for all of us, so I asked for permission to share them.


  • When her mother began to decline social engagements that she formerly would have accepted, there was concern that mom was withdrawing.  She later realized  her mom wasn’t  withdrawing but instead was conserving her energy for the things she chose.
  • Though mom had always been a part of family gatherings such as birthday parties for grand and great grandchildren, the commotion of such large gatherings no longer held appeal.  Nothing personal, just too much going on.
  • A full day was more likely going to involve one event such as going to the doctor.  No, they weren’t going to stop at the grocery store as long as they were out.  One event a day was enough.
  • She always chose personal service over automation, said she was too old to learn anything new.  Mom got gas at a station that offered full service on Tuesday, and only ever saw Karen at the bank…if Karen was off, she left.
  • The importance of maintaining independence, privacy and values were critical right up to the end.  Even in her last days, she refused to use the commode with a male nurse helping her.  She wouldn’t order cottage cheese because she couldn’t get half a serving and she didn’t want the other half to be thrown away and wasted.
  • Her life experience trumped the recommendation of any professional.  Her attorney wanted her to consolidate to one bank – nope – pension to one bank, social security to another.  Doctor wanted her on certain medications – nope – medication never helped her before, why start now.
  • Her mother had always been a private person.  Some things are public, others are private.  She didn’t appreciate people knowing her business including staff in her retirement community saying “Happy Anniversary” or knowing she was in the hospital.
  • Though she was residing in an assisted living apartment, she always thought she was in independent living right up to and including the day she left for the hospital when she needed two aides to get her dressed. 

Through various hospital visits in her mothers’ last weeks, my friend had a few other personal observations she shared:

  • Physicians are trained to cure problems.  They will continue to treat and treat and treat until someone (the patient or advocate) says stop.  Palliative care is not always in their core vocabulary.
  • Hospital procedure trumps obvious exceptions.  Her mother was taken to the ER with a possible heart attack, but she couldn’t get anyone interested in her DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order because they don't look at those until a patient is admitted to the hospital.
  • High tech hospitals provide high tech not high touch.  Community hospitals offer high touch, but low tech.  Which one do you want?

This was one daughter’s journey.  But I believe it speaks many truths involving generations, aging, and personal perspectives.  Her story may sound familiar to you and your family. If you or someone you know sees that their parent is in a life transition, we have a free, no obligation service to answer your questions about senior care services. Call Laureate Cares 262-832-7113 for a phone consultation.  Aging is a journey with many twists and turns. We can help guide you and your family.