I Worry About My Parents’ Health as I Watch Them Both Age

Mary Beth Skylis avatar

by Mary Beth Skylis |

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When I stumble through the door on my recent visit home, I’m not entirely prepared for the sight that greets me. My dad looks like he’s walking through molasses, and my mom is hobbling around on a bad hip.

I’d seen them both just a few months earlier. Mom’s hip had been acting up, but seeing her worsening pain makes me realize that her well-being is threatened, just like Dad’s. It isn’t exactly a surprise to see that her pain has increased, but the reality of it sits heavily in my chest.

My mom is my dad’s main caregiver, but she’s struggling to make her way around the house without grimacing. And Dad’s movements seem to be a little slower than usual. I wonder if they can care for themselves, let alone one another.

Watching my parents age

I’m usually prepared for the physical changes in my parents. Ever since I left home for college, the gaps in time seemed to allow for visible aging. I’d run off to school for a semester, and then I’d return to suddenly see my parents’ hair silvering. The joy and softness in their eyes seemed to glimmer instead of glow. And I was left with an ache in my chest, watching them measure time with their bodies.

Today, I’m less shocked by the changes in their appearance. I’ve had time to adapt to the difficulties associated with seeing your parents grow old. And I know that I’m changing as quickly as they are. But somehow, my visit home still catches me off guard. They seem to be changing quickly, and I worry about their health.

The only constant is change

I think what bothers me is that my arrival home reveals that both of my parents are facing obstacles. I’ve always seen my mom as a rock because she’s vigilant, hardworking, and finds a way to accomplish her goals. But seeing her struggle to get around on her bad hip makes me realize that she’s aging, too. It isn’t just my dad that I’m worried about now.

I offer to lend support, like I always do. But my mom is a Taurus and she refuses to let the pain slow her down. I know that she’s scheduled a hip replacement surgery, but the reality is that she isn’t as spry and young as she used to be.

A decline in both the patient and caregiver

After COVID-19 hit the globe, it wasn’t long before the local Rock Steady Boxing closed its doors. Previously, my dad had been attending boxing classes twice a week where he’d practice skills like balancing, shouting, and hitting punching bags. He looked energetic and strong when he was in his routine. But after the gym closed, he began watching a lot of TV. In front of the blue, flickering light, he became sedentary, and his muscles weakened. The changes in his body seemed to happen more quickly.

But I’m also worried that his caregiver is struggling with challenges of her own.

“Will she be willing to ask for help when the time comes?” I wonder. “If we’re able to get her hip replaced, will she be back to her normal, spunky self? Or will we begin to see other signs of her slowing down?”

The people who have been stable beacons in my life may need to rely on others for stability. Will a time come when both of my parents need to be attended to in order to maintain their well-being? All I know is that my recent visit has brought a heavy dose of reality to my cheer. And I’m not sure I’m ready for it.

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