For years I have been coaching and giving workshops on life and career transition. When Boomers are involved, I consider them the cream part of the Oreo cookie, nestled between the two cookie pieces. Boomers are sandwiched between their kids and elder parents.
In my own situation, my husband and I became that cream! I moved my mother, who is now 88 years old, from New Jersey to an assisted living facility in the DC area. After so many trips up and down the turnpike—yes, we know the standing joke that all people from New Jersey identify themselves by the exit they are from—it was time for her to leave Princeton (Exit 8).
Often during a move like this, the focus is primarily on the elder parent who is being moved: his or her health and healthcare changes, whether he or she will meet new people, and so on. But the Boomer who is taking care of these issues is equally important, as there are also big changes going on in the Boomer’s family because of the issues presented by the elder parent.
For me, it is easier to have my mother living locally. But as a consequence, I have much more time-consuming involvement in her day-to-day living. As everyone in my household works, there are a number of things that come up, mostly logistical. For me as well, there are also emotional factors that come into play.
I know from focusing my work on life and career transition, confidence and resilience, that many people resist change, even when it is positive. Moving a parent many miles brings up a wide range of feelings, ranging from excitement and joy to fear of the unknown.
My mother is resilient, thank goodness. I know that resilience is all about our thinking style. It’s about the ability to persevere and adapt when you are going through change and adversities in your life. My mother has done pretty well and I am very proud of her.
But Boomers can be the ones most affected by this type of transition. I have been hearing this more from clients in similar situations.
In those first few months after moving a parent, the emotional impact can be deeply felt, particularly if the parent is declining, either physically or cognitively (or both). In a manner of speaking, it is as if a grieving process presents before the parent actually passes on. I was aware in advance that this occurs. But such awareness does not make it easier.
Grieving can begin when you see physical and mental changes in an aging parent that make you feel like your parent simply “isn’t the same.” By having my mother here, I was exposed to witnessing more and more changes. I knew that on a logical basis that this happens. But I didn’t realize at first the extent of the emotional adjustments I would have to make.
Typically, I would go to visit my mom in New Jersey two weekends each month. We would talk daily on the telephone, share stories and discuss what was going on with family, friends and work.
With more contact and exposure now that my mother is living locally, I have really felt a deep sense of loss. Remembering my mom over many years, beginning when I was growing up (particularly because we were always a tight-knit family) is bittersweet in light of our current situation.
Now, most of my mom’s needs are met at the assisted living facility. She has been here for approximately 8 months, and we are in a rhythm of doctor’s appointments, food runs, and personal items runs.
My mom’s transition process had one genuinely great thing going in her favor: she knew that the timing for this was right. Living on her own was becoming too difficult for her to manage by herself.
I’ve noticed with clients and friends that they minimize the emotional adjustments that come along when working with aging parents. I strongly urge you be aware that this occurs, to notice it as it happens, and embrace it. As a result, you will be able to deal with it.
And remember: Talking is a great outlet. Appreciate each day for the gift that it is.