I am now in the generation whose parents are getting old and sick. It’s the cycle of life. I remember when my grandfather was in the hospital dying. My Father was by his bedside all the time. Now we are facing that stark reality: our parent’s decline and their mortality. Our parents are in a stage of life that is not only difficult for them but for us as well, physically and mentally. How do we deal with the inevitable changes they go through? How do we create a relationship that will support them during these difficult times?

My Dad is in his late eighties now and in very bad health. He shuffles with a walker, has a heart that should have given out years ago, has neuropathy with little or no feeling in his legs and a horrific back that has endured two spinal fusions and leaves him in constant pain. The latest is skin cancer. So he can be cranky. If I were in his condition, I would be completely nuts and asking to be put out of my misery! Dad? He still goes into his office everyday and works out a few times a week! Adding insult to injury, he has been fighting off Alzheimers for years now and I firmly believe that it is his iron will and determination that have kept it at bay.

I adore and love my Dad. He has been a good Father but Dad was never easy. I won’t go in all the psycho-babble but suffice it to say, the judgments he has rendered throughout my brothers’ and my life have been debilitating. He’s a tough one. That’s why he is still around. Still around with all of his character traits amplified.

Here’s what I know about dealing with my aging and ailing Father:

1) In one ear and out the other: After all these years I have finally figured out that the ‘stuff’ that my Father carries around with him from his childhood makes mine look like a walk in the park! He endured poverty, the death of his Mother when he was two, a stepmother that cared for him but never really showed him any affection, ant-Semitism in a small Ohio town, WWII…need I go on? When he says something that I consider hurtful or inappropriate, I just stop and look at his inner child and it makes it easier to let it all roll off my back. It’s not about me. It’s never been about me.

2) Limit the conversation if necessary: There are still subjects that we really don’t need to talk about. We have learned after all these years that there are areas best left untouched. We have plenty of other things to discuss, things that I have always wanted to know, things that have real meaning.

3) Concentrate on bringing them joy: Whatever I can do at this point to give my parents a little joy I will do. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to call everyday, to send him flowers, to take him on walks…whatever. The things that I know make him happy, I try to do.

4) Accept what is: I cannot control my Dad anymore then I can control what has happened to him. I can only control myself which is hard enough. I can only search within myself to handle things in such a way that will make us all more content and comfortable.

5) Give him independence for as long as possible: It’s true for my parents today and it will be the same for me in thirty years. The loss of Dad’s ability to drive was a huge blow but we knew when we had to lay down the law. He really shouldn’t be going into the office anymore but if we take that away, it will destroy him. We’ll know when the time comes that he simply has to give it up. In the meantime, whatever we can do to leave him his dignity will keep him going.

6) It’s my Daddy: This is the man that along with my wonderful and stoic Mom has raised me; whose lap I sat in feeling like nothing could ever me; whose arms I used to jump into as a child; who I could always count on; who provided for his family and who loves me more than I could ever ask. At this point in our lives, that’s all that matters.

Time is short for my Dad and me. I know that. Right now I cannot imagine life without him. He has always been there for me. I have always had a safety net, an emotional giant to rely on. I must be that for him now. What I must concentrate on now, even on those days when he makes me feel so low, are all the incredible and wonderful things he has done for me over the years. Just love him.

Author's Bio: 

Shelley Stile is an ACC certified Divorce Recovery Life Coach and author who guides her clients to let go the pain of their divorce and move on to create new and vibrant lives after divorce. Shelley has been through her own divorce so she knows first-hand about the journey of divorce recovery. Shelley coaches her clients on a one-on-one basis and also leads tele-seminars and workshops. She has published powerful articles and books on life after divorce and is the author of the new book, 95 Transformational Tips for Letting Go and Moving On After Your Divorce available at www.divorcesupportbook.com

She is a certified coach and member of the International Coaches Federation, the governing body for Life Coaching. Shelley trained with the Coaches Training Institute and the Ford Institute for Integrative Coaching’s Spiritual Divorce Recovery.

Receive her free, powerful e-book, The 10 Secrets to Coping with Divorce’, and her monthly ‘Take Back Your Life After Divorce’ Newsletter by going to: http://www.freedivorcesupport.com or contact Shelley at shelleystile@lifeafteryourdivorce.com to schedule a free consultation and sample session of divorce coaching. For more information on Divorce Recovery Coaching, go to www.lifeafteryourdivorce.com.