Praying Advent While Caring for Parents
Alexander, Andy, S.J.
Waldron, Maureen McCann
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"Text from the first four paragraphs of "Praying Advent While Caring for Parents"Many of us find ourselves in this Season of Advent as care givers for our parents. For some of us, this is a new experience - one we never imagined before. For others of us, it is a role we've embraced for many years. For some of us, especially many of us in the U.S., our parents are no longer living in their homes, but are in a retirement facility or in a nursing home, perhaps with different levels of care. Often, our parents are living in such a residence in another part of the country. Many others of us are caring for our parents, or one of them, in our own homes.In a great variety of ways of caring, or degrees of caring - full-time, part-time, or through an occasional visit or phone call - we can enter into Advent in a special way by entering into a reflection upon this care giving role we have with our parents.A Reversal of Roles, With a Twist.It is common to say that we are experiencing a "reversal of roles" in this "sandwich generation" (sometimes caring for both our children and our parents at the same time). Of course, we are now caring for the parents who cared for us. However, it involves much more than that. Our parents were caring for us while we were growing up, maturing, entering a life full of hope and promise. We now care for our parents in their decline, in their diminishment, sometimes accompanying them to their death.Letting Ourselves Get Close to the Experience.While the experience of caring for our parents can be extremely rewarding, it can also be very draining and stress filled. It often means a complicated balancing act - pitting these powerful and deep emotional bonds and obligations against our jobs and our other family commitments. At times, the stresses of this care can wear us thin. It can lead to tension, impatience, and even emotional outbursts. Sometimes our parent is suffering from some degree of dementia, or some deterioration of their memory or capacity to exercise good judgment. Even if they aren't experiencing any mental deficit, the embarrassment and discomfort with losing control can lead our parents to be very frustrated and perhaps quite difficult at times. Sometimes, compassion, sensitivity, understanding of the stresses the other is bearing, or even good communication have all broken down. And, tragically, in some rare moments we are tempted to, or even guilty of, emotional or physical abuse."