Thinking About Our Ageing Parents

With a spirited mother-in-law and a dad who's still ticking, we're grateful that our ageing parents are still independent, but we're preparing for the day they'll need more care



As Christmas approaches, I've been thinking a lot about old people. Mainly this is down to guilt, as we are going away over Christmas, which means we can't play host to our parents.

We are the generation that has to juggle childcare and eldercare. Many of my friends have had to adapt to having one or both parents living with them. We are lucky that we've not had to worry too much about our parents, but I know the time will come soon.

The mother-in-law

I am very fortunate to have a spirited mother-in-law. She is, I believe, in her 80s but as no-one is allowed to ask her exact age, we can't be sure that she's not 90.

She spends part of the year building hurricane shelters and medical clinics in Nicaragua and the other half of the year organising the parish council. Whilst also juggling a very active social life, with a few toy boys thrown in for good measure. She is as fit as a flea, has more hair than her son (much to his annoyance) and the dewy skin of someone half her age (much to my annoyance).

She really is a minor miracle...

Bar one thing. She is slightly deaf. And by slightly I actually mean very. But either she doesn't realise it or doesn't want to admit it. Knowing her, I'm opting for the latter.

Disrupting the nativity play

During my son's nativity play, whilst Mary and Joseph were quietly laying the baby Jesus in the manger, she turned to me, and said in what she thought was a quiet voice but was actually as loud as a fog horn "They could have chosen a prettier Mary." I forgot to mention that not only is she deaf, but she is also quite opinionated. And by quite, I really mean very. You get the picture.

So is there a politically correct way of suggesting my mother in law gets fitted for a hearing aid? I'm guessing not, unless I want to start World War III.

Not so spirited father

On my side of the family, I have a wonderful dad, who has lived life to the full and is now falling apart at the seams. He's had two new knees, probably needs two new hips, has already been fitted with his hearing aids, and has stared death in the face on more than one occasion.

But he too is still going strong. Well not exactly 'strong', but he's still going. He may not remember his grandchildren's names, or even my name for that matter, but the brain is still ticking over even if the body occasionally lets him down.

Caring for our parents

There doesn't seem to be a magic solution to what we are going to do about an aged population that lives longer but fiercely protects their independence. The idea of putting my dad or my mother in law into a home when the time comes seems appalling. And like the hearing aids, I'm pretty sure I won't be able to happily broach that topic with either of them.

We could put them up in our house, but they have both made it very clear that they would rather die than live with us. I'm not sure if I should be offended by that, or delighted that we've closed the door on that option.

For the time being, we will count our lucky stars that they are both happy and relatively healthy. We just won't take my mother-in-law to another nativity play.

Amanda Coxen, Working Mum and Tinies Director

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