Welcome to Stories of Caring for Elderly Parents
Dauna Easley and Marky Olson began teaching together in the early 1970s. Their paths lead to different parts of the country but the annual Christmas card kept them in touch.
Both of them love writing and both have been published by Chicken Soup for the Soul. Both earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.
Both of them taught elementary school and moved on to teaching high school.
Both enjoy long marriages, children and grandchildren.
And now, both of them are caring for Elderly Parents.
Marky’s mother is gone now and her father lives in an Adult Family Home in the Seattle area.
Dauna’s mother still lives in her own home, near Dauna’s home in the Cincinnati area.
Suddenly, their Christmas-card friendship has rebuilt itself on the strength of the past and the challenging power of walking the final path with elderly parents.
Read Dauna and Marky’s stories in blog posts and their book
Caregiving Elderly Parents: Real Stories from two Caregiving Baby Boomers
Most recent post:
After caring for my parents for 7 years, hindsight steps forward with its lessons. Learning Curves. Becoming a parent, starting a new job, starting college, buying a home or learning a new instrument. We get it; they all require adjustment, hard work, new skills and mistakes that teach lessons. But the truth about caring for elderly parents is that the learning curve is demanding, deeply complicated by emotions, haunted by awareness of the inevitable end and few of us signed up for the class. Add to that: parents are on a learning curve of their own. They didn’t sign up either, few of them had role modeling from their own parents, and denial has all but obliterated reality. They have to face the loss of independence, of those they hold dear and the dawning realization of an often incomplete legacy. Navigating the maze requires making life-altering decisions, coping skills and acceptance.
Emily Dickinson said
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, One clover, and a bee. And revery.
Who knew life could be described in such simple, profound words. Here is what my learning curve of care taught me. The clover leaves are most certainly the choices we made with and for my parents: housing, legal documents, medical choices and end-of-life discussions. Important, necessary and at times, heart-breaking. The unrelenting bee is the emotion weaving ceaselessly in and around those 7 years. But the prairie. The prairie is the Yin and Yang of life. My grandchildren were all born during this time. The joy and grief collided at times, gently forcing me to learn about myself. My family was my strength, joy and challenge, but always my refuge. The trust in my parents’ eyes reflected strength that was passed to me.
I don’t think my parents knew they were on the most difficult learning curve of their lives.
My father simply did not accept the fact that my mother would never walk again. She spent the last 5 years of her life in a wheelchair and my father sought everything possible to help her walk: a “stand-up” workout machine, “foot” bicycles and doctors who promised help. He insisted on driving long past the time it was safe, generating many heated discussions with me. As I struggled with my father’s denial, I began to understand the words Dylan Thomas wrote to his father:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light…
…And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
My mother was more resigned. It was Mom’s deteriorating health that began the 7 year journey of care. She was very social, loved writing, tennis, golf and traveling. And she loved her family unconditionally. But the strokes changed her physically and altered the essence of who she was. The path of her learning curve was uphill and even convoluted at times. Mom was dependent on everyone else for her daily care. She told me the hardest part of this time of her life was learning patience. But her smile was joyously alive when I walked in. And she could laugh with abandon at the antics of great-grandchildren and gaze in awe at a hummingbird.
Two learning curves colliding at the same time, bound by the ironclad law of family, as old as time. No one had signed up for class; no one wanted to attend and yet…this teacher called hindsight steals into my heart on a regular basis reminding me of the profound power of love.
Learning curves lead to new skills, new opportunities and and maturity. I started this journey with a strong work ethic, organizational and follow-through skills. But as I learned how to parent my parents, the logic of birth and death was both countered and beautifully trumped by emotion. I stepped up to the plate, navigated for my parents and held their hands at the end. I learned to forgive myself for mistakes and resentments. I learned to put guilt in a box and dash it from my heart. I reconnected with an old friend, also caring for her mother and together we wrote a book about our journeys. I speak to many audiences, telling them of the learning curve they face. Because, no matter where you are in life’s journey, this is a forever and undeniable truth:
To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under Heaven.