THE BLOG

Ageing Parents - A Wake Up Call

27/01/2017 14:09

With this being my 50th Huffington Post blog, I had made a plan for what I'd write about, but like all plans you make when you have ageing parents those plans can go out of the window very quickly.

Or more specifically in my case, an ageing parent, as sadly my dad is no longer with us - 2017 will mark the 5th anniversary of his passing. Regular readers of mine will know how inspirational my dad remains to me, and through my writing I've charted the many ups and downs we had during dad's 19 years with vascular dementia. My first ever Huff Post blog 'The Ultimate Role Reversal' did just this.

Throughout that time I had my mum's support as we navigated 'the system', took decisions and made sure we were always there for my dad. I've always been very grateful for my mum's good health, and in some ways she has come to feel rather timeless to me. Seeing her everyday, I don't notice her age in the way other people who rarely see her do, and I guess I'd rather taken for granted that mum would just always be there, which is very stupid on my part since I know full well from my experiences with my dad that that isn't the case.

And so it was, earlier this month, that my 77-year-old mum woke up complaining of discomfort in her chest. We discussed her symptoms and decided she should see the GP. Fast forward a few hours, and I'm being called from the GP surgery to be told mum's being taken by ambulance to A&E. On discussing this with the doctor, he was unsure of what was causing mum's symptoms and wanted further tests done that day (or rather that night).

"Shall I pack mum an overnight bag?" I asked, to which the GP suggested that might be a good idea. Leaving our baby daughter at home for her daddy to put her to bed, I made the 25 mile trip to the hospital at nearly 8pm. This gave me that most dangerous of luxuries - time to think - and the most overwhelming thought that came into my head was that I used to do these night time dashes to hospital for my dad. Only then I had my mum by my side. Now I was alone.

Of course in my mind I had the love of my family behind me, and the kisses and hugs I'd had as I left home, but in that car I was on my own. I'd told my other half as I hastily packed a bag for mum, clearly looking shocked from the phone call (and apparently slightly shaking, not that I noticed it!) that I was fine, I'd done all this before with my dad and I was perfectly OK, or at least as OK as you can be in that situation.

But the problem with trying to fall back on past experience is that eventually things with my dad ended in that most final of final ways. When you get a phone call to say your other parent might have a heart problem, you fear the worst. It's human nature. No amount of experience is going to help you feel any better.

I was weighing up in my mind how events had taken the course they had, trying to console myself that mum is basically a healthy person, generally eats well, has lots of energy and only that day had been out for a walk. This was supposed to be a routine GP check up, just to reassure mum and I - now I felt anything but reassured.

As it turned out, after hours of tests and examinations, mum was given the all-clear, bar the need to return for an outpatients appointment. Do I now feel reassured? Yes, but the whole episode has undoubtedly shaken all of those assumptions I've made, all the taking for granted has gone, and I'm seeing mum's ageing in a way I hadn't before.

In some ways that's a good thing, but in other ways it scares me. People who haven't had the experience I've had with my dad might be even more stuck in the rut of carrying on with their own lives, forgetting as we celebrate each birthday and Christmas that the years go by and our parents age.

I've had my wake up call, not that I should ever have needed it working in health and social care, dealing day in, day out with the issues that affect older people. But as I clearly did need it I suggest plenty of you might too. Take my experience and use it to make sure you nurture the relationship and the time you have with your parents.

Comments

CONVERSATIONS