This is such a different topic for each age, stage of life, and circumstance, but even more so as everyone’s roles are changing. 

Hello! My name is Dr. Karen Ceraso, I am a physical therapist, and today I am going to chat about caring for your older parents.

Maybe your parents help you with your life, your kids, your finances, and so on. What happens if they become ill-not sick, but ill with a disease, or a diagnosis where they are no longer the physical or mental person they once were? How do you, as their child, handle this? Do you constantly tell them what to do as friendly reminders?

I am going to use my own example. My almost 84-year-old mom is staying with me. She is sharp as a tack. She worked during covid, retiring from teaching at a local college shortly after. Pretty sharp mama. But watch her stand, or walk and you would want to wrap her in bubble wrap. How many falls has she had in the past 2 years? I don’t want to answer-but they all resulted in something breaking. Her dominant arm was smashed and now has plates holding it together. Her other arm had a broken wrist. Her one knee is bowed and spongy with each step. I know what you are thinking “you are a PT, fix her”. Right?

She will not use a walker. She is not one to exercise or walk outside of the home. I’m excited for her to stay here with me and my family. I want the relationship to stay nourished. Did I have her do clams, or bridging, or stretching? No. Mostly as that has failed me in the past. I asked her “what do you need mom?” It was pretty simple. She replied, “my back hurts when I sit too long”. I looked at her sitting posture. I propped her up with hard pillows so she wasn’t crooked and slouched. I supported her under her arms. I put a block under her feet. She looked like a new person, okay, maybe not that good, but better.

Later that evening she joined me in cleaning up the kitchen. I did not ask. My mom is not lazy, but she does have help to clear her table, put her things away, and so on. Tonight, she actually had some energy to help me a bit.

The value of her participating and mentally feeling good all due to properly resting her body and me not nagging her to ‘get up’ to ‘just walk a bit”.

Rest is essential. Movement is essential. When a body is in pain it can not do either effectively. Seeing her up and about was such a win! Does she still need a walking program, booty strengthening, balance, and safety? Well, yes. But addressing what is her main concern- being in pain with sitting- was a higher priority than what I wanted to address at that moment. This is the same with anyone you want to help.

I’m telling myself a friendly reminder to let the person you want to help the most be the one to guide you, so you can guide them.