As a young child, my dad was like a superhero who could leap tall buildings in a single bound. As I grew, I realized that my parents were mere mortals as I noticed that Mom and Dad had their flaws too. Now, like many of you with aging parents, I realize that Mom and Dad are slowing down and becoming more and more dependent.
This role reversal is often described as a child becoming a “parent” to his or her mom or dad. This can be a difficult stage of life for both parties. For the adult child, it can mean tremendous demands on their time and loss of sleep. The parent, on the other hand, feels he or she is at risk of losing his or her independence, authority and dignity.
If you find yourself as your mom or dad’s caregiver, I’d like to use this Mother’s Day to make a suggestion: Be a little more like Mary. Let me explain: The Bible contains a story about two sisters, Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). When Jesus came to visit, they needed to prepare a great meal for Jesus and His disciples.
Martha was busy preparing all the stuff that had to be done. But Mary just sat at Jesus’ feet, being with Him and listening to Him. Surely, every syllable was like music to her soul. Martha went to Jesus and said, “Lord, tell her to help me.” Jesus responded, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
“Say Judd, are you saying your dad is like the Savior of the World?” No, of course not. Over the last 20 years, I’ve observed both Marys and Marthas in the families that I help with their long-term care needs. My point is that it would be nice if the Marthas could try to be a little more like Mary and try to spend a little more quality time with Mom and/or Dad. (And that goes for the Peters and Pauls.)
Here is “A Letter from Mom and Dad” that’s being circulated on the internet that I wanted to share because it makes the point better than I could:
When I get old, I hope you understand
and have patience with me.
In case I break a plate, or spill soup on the table
because I’m losing my eyesight,
I hope you don’t yell at me.
Older people are sensitive.
Always having self-pity when you yell
When my hearing gets worse
and I can’t hear what you’re saying,
I hope you don’t call me “Deaf!”
Please repeat what you said or write it down.
I’m sorry my child. …I’m getting older
When my knees get weaker, I hope you have
the patience to help me get up
Like how I used to when you were little,
Learning how to walk. Please bear with me
When I keep repeating myself
like a broken record,
I hope you just keep listening to me
Please don’t make fun of me,
or get sick of listening to me
Do you remember when you were little
and you wanted a balloon?
You repeated yourself over and over
until you got what you wanted
Please pardon my smell. I smell like an
old person. Please don’t force me to shower.
My body is weak. Old people get sick easily
when they’re cold. I hope I don’t gross you out.
Do you remember when you were little?
I used to chase you around because you
didn’t want to shower. I hope you can be
patient with me when I’m always cranky.
It’s all part of getting old.
You’ll understand when you get older.
And if you have spare time,
I hope we can talk even for a few minutes
I’m always by myself all the time.
And have no one to talk to
I know you’re busy with work.
Even if you’re not interested in my stories,
Please have time for me.
Do you remember when you were little?
I used to listen to your stories
about your teddy bear.
When the time comes and I get ill and bedridden,
I hope you have the patience to take care of me.
I’M SORRY if I accidentally wet the bed or make a mess
I hope you have the patience to take care of me
during the last few moments of my life
I’m not going to last much longer, anyway.
When the time of my death comes,
I hope you hold my hand and give me the
strength to face death. And don’t worry…
When I finally meet our Creator…
I’ll whisper in His ear to BLESS you
because you loved your mom and dad.
In conclusion, I understand that you have to do everything. And if you don’t do it, it won’t get done. I am, however, suggesting you get some help so you: (1) don’t make yourself sick; and (2) can spend a little more quality time with your mom and/or dad as their son or daughter, not as their caregiver.
If you can’t afford part-time caregivers, look into qualifying for Medi-Cal and In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS). If you can afford to pay for part-time home care, but don’t want to dip into your savings — remember that money you put away for a rainy day? Well, guess what? It’s raining.
Judd Matsunaga, Esq., is the founding partner of the Law Offices of Matsunaga & Associates, specializing in estate/Medi-Cal planning, probate, personal injury and real estate law. With offices in Torrance, Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Pasadena and Fountain Valley, he can be reached at (800) 411-0546. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.