Worrying About My Parents Now That They’re Empty Nesters

Mary Beth Skylis avatar

by Mary Beth Skylis |

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My little sister recently packed her bags and drove to Oregon, making my parents first-time empty nesters at their home in Michigan. The last of the flock has flown the coop, eager to explore everything that life has in store for her.

When our family of eight gathers, there is constant commotion. But now that it’s just Mom and Dad at home, the pace is different. There’s silence where there was once chatter, laughter, and motion.

I imagine the change is delightful in some ways. My dad confirmed my suspicions when he joked with my sister that it was freeing to have an empty house. I’m assuming he meant they no longer have to worry about being quiet or adjusting their schedules and habits for us kids.

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But at the same time, the emptiness seems to introduce risks. If something were to happen — if Dad were to fall, like many Parkinson’s patients do, or if Mom were to leave the stove on — would anyone notice? Do they have friends checking in periodically? How often are my siblings in town?

My dad is retired from real estate and spends most of his time at home reading the news or tending to daily tasks. He seems to get by just fine, but I can’t help worrying about him anyway. He’s stubborn and often won’t admit that he can’t do something on his own. How will we know when he needs help if he doesn’t tell us?

My mom still works full time. She’s always active, swooping in and out of the house like a busy bird. And when she’s finished working her 9-to-5 job, she comes home to teach piano lessons. She’s fierce and persistent, but I worry about her, too.

When my parents are together, I know they can care for each other. But when Mom goes to work and leaves Dad to his own devices, I start asking questions. Is he safe? Is he extra cautious when he’s alone? Are there any available resources that could help him?

My brothers still live relatively close to home, and I know they’d drop anything in a heartbeat if they knew my parents needed their help. But I still wonder: Will Mom and Dad be able to make it on their own?

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


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