Caring for the Aging: From Age-Old Fears To Old-Age Fears
Caring for the aging can be challenging. It helps to remember “when”…
When children are afraid, parents do everything they can to comfort and alleviate the fear.
And, in the very beginning of life that doesn’t happen often since we all arrive on the planet with only two fears. We humans are born with only two fears: the fear of loud noises and falling. These could be considered the age-old fears. All other fears such as fear of heights, snakes, spiders and clowns are learned from our families and environment.
Tending to the fears of our children is done in love and tenderness. However, the tides tend to turn when our parents age and begin to express fears. We are so accustomed to our parents being the ones who know everything and can do anything that we lose sight of the fact that they are entering a time of vulnerability that causes stress and real fears. This is a time that adult children caregivers can tap into a new tenderness to comfort and assure aging parents.
Living In Fear
In our American culture, our elders are not revered as they are in other cultures. Caring for the aging isn’t something all children “just do” as a matter of principle or practice. Our elders are often shuffled off into retirement homes and facilities where they are out of sight and out of mind.
Thus, it’s no wonder so many people begin to express fears as they age. They’ve had a lifetime to see how older people are treated. Conversely, it’s the exact opposite of the fearlessness that babies experience.
When we care for the aging, it will do us well to remember that our elders deal with a multitude of fears on a daily basis.
From Losing Balance To Losing Independence
Toddlers lose their balance constantly when learning to walk. They, however, simply get up and try again until they are masters of walking and running. At the other end of the life spectrum losing balance for an aging parent could mean falling and breaking a hip or other bone. This has happened so many times that it is one of the first fears to creep into the mind as parents age.
Another fear we might encounter when caring for the aging is that they fear losing their independence. They may no longer be able to drive, which may make it difficult to see family members on a regular basis. The fear of being placed in an “old folks’ home” is real and causes tremendous stress.
Our aging parents don’t want to be a burden on their families and loved ones. They have most likely seen some of their friends die in less than ideal circumstances and that creates fear.
Aging parents often fear that their children want to take over their lives. They are afraid of becoming senile and being taken advantage of. They are afraid of being alone and dying alone.
Everyone Does The Best They Can
In some cases these fears can cause irrational thoughts to be expressed that might cause adult children caregivers to become angry. Moving toward death is a new experience and no one knows how to do it. Like every other stage of life, each person does it in the best way they know how. It’s like being a parent for the first time. Babies don’t arrive with instruction manuals. If they did, maybe those instructions would include end of life care too. If only! As it is though, caregivers as well as the recipients of that care always do the best they can. And hopefully we will all get better with practice and be able to pass that tenderness and caring along to whoever will be our caregiver when the time comes.