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I am an only child, and I need to share my journey of ageing parents.  I write this candidly, thus I trust the reader will respect the dignity of my parents as I have.

Parents are incredibly special, they raise us, they support us, they teach us, they guide us and most importantly, they love us.  As their child(ren) and with unwavering reciprocity we also respect, honour and love our parents back.  However, all the while we are respecting, honouring and loving them, we find ourselves journeying through our own adult lives and are unaware of the fact that perhaps one day we need to support, teach, guide and care for our parents as they once did for us.

My parents raised me to be well rounded, and they certainly ensured I became strong and independent, a reflection of them.  They were in their early eighties, when things truly started to take a shift, or at least that is when I truly noticed a significant change in routines, conversations, as well as simple things such as meal/food choices readily available in their home.  It took me a long time to muster up the courage to chat with my parents about the change I was seeing.  My initial conversation, and the numerous conversations thereafter, were met on their part with denial, anger, annoyance, and not to mention they felt insulted by what they felt was a topic of conversation that was ‘out of line’ on my part.  At that point, I just wished that my parents would have looked at options (living arrangements other than their family home) while they were still able to make sound decisions for themselves.  Simply put, my parents never thought that they would have to move from their family home; they were not prepared for this part of their life.

I chatted with my doctor about the changes I was seeing and the best advice I received from my doctor was that: “Once it is unsafe for them to be in their home, you need to take action.”  That statement bought me about nine months; nine months during which I could do a bit of research and continue to the hard conversations that it may be time for my parents to move closer to me.

After a year, and many sleepless nights, I was able to move my parents closer to me and my family, into a Retirement Home; Independent Living to be exact.  I did the research myself, all the while working and being a mother and a wife.  There were times, where I wished I could just ‘hire a sister’.

As the time in the retirement home for my mother and father continued, health issues became more apparent, and I quickly learned that I needed to advocate on a much grander scale.  It was nine months exactly after they moved into the retirement home that my mother passed away, and my father, never expecting that “he’d be left behind”, as he put it, was not prepared in any capacity to cope with his significant loss, thus needed numerous supports put into place.

I did NOT know where to turn.  I was receiving an average 5-10 phone calls an hour from my father to name only one challenge.  Again, I so desperately needed support to help with the navigation of my father’s, and for that matter, my future.

Serendipitously, I was given the name of the SILVER SHERPA, and advocacy organization for families supporting the elderly.  I needed them because I was in crisis with my father. I also discovered they assisted with various ‘next stage’ scenarios; Power of Attorney, Executor of the Will, the Will itself, the funeral, etc.  Luckily for me, my parents had all that organized. They knew they needed their affairs well handled, and they made sure years before that that was resolved.

As I reflect, I wish my parents were open to investigating Retirement Living, Assistive Living and also Long Term Care.  These three living options are tricky to navigate, and if one doesn’t have the time it can be very stressful.  I was most appreciative of the support and expertise I received from the SILVER SHERPA, they assisted me in navigating the health care system, picking Long Term Care facilities, and they were part of many case conferences to list a few.

Navigating the journey of one’s parents is difficult, it is stressful, it is brand new to us as adult children, yet it will always remain an honour to support those who nurtured us.  With all that said, there are many things that need to be taken into consideration; I am therefore so thankful that I was able to support my parents’ final journey with the assistance of the SILVER SHERPA, the sister that I needed.

I encourage everyone to have those hard conversations, to ask the difficult questions, and to seek support and guidance from family and agencies who have a vast amount of expertise in elder care and support.  This is a journey that is best taken with those who have knowledge, sympathy and empathy.  Our parents are our gems, just as we were gems for them.

I wish my mother and father peace and happiness in their next journey, and I thank them for all their support, care, guidance and unwavering love for me and my family

Mom and Dad, may you always rest in peace.

Are you prepared?
A Lunch & Learn for Seniors

November 10th, 2018