Dialogue on Aging and Caregiving

Note: At first they speak mostly to the audience/congregation, but this changes as noted.

I don’t know exactly when it happened
but something began to change

Older person:
Of course, as a parent, 
things were always changing 
from baby to child,
from child to teenager,
from teenager to young adult, 
young adult to adult - 
the nature of parenting is change.

Younger person:
We hit some choppy waters now and again,
and it took a while to settle into
a more adult relationship,
but things had settled into a pattern
that felt comfortable and seemed to work.

Older person:
I had always been the one giving care,
the one they came to in a crisis,
the one who cooked holidays meals,
the one who helped out with the grandkids.

Younger person:
They were always there when I needed them.
It was comforting to go there
and have them cook for me,
be able to ease back a little, relax.

I don’t know exactly when it happened
but then something began to change

Younger person:
Then they started needing some help.
First it was yard work and big jobs around the house,
Then more ordinary tasks like shopping and cleaning.
The grandkids started to wear them out,
and holiday meals became more potluck.

Older person:
It was hard not being able to fend for myself,
and I missed seeing the grandkids as much.
I thought THAT was an adjustment.
But I still had my independence, mostly,
could still live on my own and still drive.

I don’t know exactly when it happened
but something began to change

Younger person:
Then came the first falls and forgetfulness.
At first we could write it off as a one-time thing,
but then those one-time happenings became a pattern.

Older person: (addressing younger)
It was scary, my legs giving out from under me,
finding myself places I didn’t recognize,
unable to find my way home. 
I tried to hide it because I knew what it meant—

Younger person:
I nearly lost it when I found out how long
it had been going on and how bad it had become.
I couldn’t understand why you made such a fuss
about stopping driving—you could have killed someone!
It was so frustrating that someone so practical
refused to face the facts!

Older person: I knew the risks and wouldn’t want to hurt anyone,
but not being able to drive anymore
meant my independence was gone.
That’s a big thing to lose, on top of everything else.

Younger person:
You could have hurt yourself.
I wanted you to be safe.
I wanted you to be well.

Older person:
I knew the next thing after giving up driving
would be losing my home,
with all my familiar things,
where my memories were strongest.

I don’t know exactly when it happened
but something began to change

Older person:
I feared becoming a burden to you.
I feared you might put me into a home
then leave me there, stop visiting, forget me.

Younger person (to older person):
I’ll admit this situation feels burdensome
but you are not a burden and I won’t forget you.
It’s tough watching such a strong person
becoming weaker, less healthy, less able.

Older person:
It’s tough to lose strength, health, ability.
It’s sad and frustrating and really scary.

It feels like the whole balance of power
has changed and that’s really tough.

Older person:
I don’t like not being able 
to be your parent anymore,
to take care of you like I once did.
It feels like now I’m the child
and I don’t want to be treated like one.

Younger person:
You may not be able to take care of me,
you may have to let me take care of you,
but I promise not to treat you like a child.
You will always be my parent
and I will always be your kid.

Older person:
Maybe together we can work it out.

Younger person:
Together we can figure out
a different kind of closeness.

(they embrace)

I don’t know exactly when it happened
but something began to change