Lifestyle

Education and parenting, now add elder care to the list

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I wrote my first column for a local newspaper in Ontario in 1983 and have continued to do so, on a weekly basis, in various communities in which I have lived since then.

The basic premise of the column has always been about education or parenting and, as I have said before, it’s not from some feigned position of expertise that I write, but more from an exploration of my own learning as I have gone through the stages of teaching, educational administration and parenting.

I can assure you, I have never lacked for topics nor for experiences that have given rise to much thinking about what seems to make the most sense, even if it is from my own limited perception.

Now that all of my children are grown and I have officially retired from the education world, I have found myself pausing to think about what my writing should entail.  While I have a long list of issues related to parenting and education that I have not yet addressed, I am also entering a new phase of my life, one in which I will be caring for my aging and ill parents.

In essence, I am going to be the child in their home, wrestling with a new role in which I have little experience.

Having been a decision-maker for many years now, my new role is not to make decisions for my parents, although that moment might well come at some point, but to facilitate them being able to make their own decisions with as much independence or dignity as possible.

I’ll be treading a new fine line in so doing.

To some extent, my writing for this column has been a journal of my family’s experiences and I plan to continue that format.

However, I will likely be expanding the notion of topics to include a wider range than the issues of parenting and educating youth and teens.

The reality is that many readers will be entering a similar phase to me over the next few years, when a large generation of aging parents will bring a new and different challenge to our collective skills of caring for each other.

Just as we’ve shared ideas about parenting, so too might we share ideas of caring for our parents.

For me, the feedback I have received from readers has often been helpful in forming my own strategies and so this column has, indeed, been a forum of sharing, and I invite readers to send stories, tips and questions as this topic of elder care develops.

Ten years ago, I had a list of about 500 topics I wanted to cover in the parenting and education field. I’ve used many and added new ones so the length of that list has not changed much.

But 10 years ago I had no list of elder care topics; it simply wasn’t on my radar, despite my parents being in their late 70s at the time.

In the past two years, and particularly in the past six months, that list has exploded. I’ve begun reading a lot and talking to a lot of people with experience, both in elder care and in health care, trying to understand the challenges faced by both the elderly and their families.

At this point, I have many more questions than answers, but you can’t start a plan without asking those questions and seeking some answers.

In my first week of moving back with my parents, after leaving home at 16 and never returning, I am faced with a challenging problem already: how do I live in their home and provide the infrastructure they need without making them feel helpless or without interfering with the systems they have developed in coping on their own up to this point?

Graham Hookey is an educational and parenting writer. Email him at ghookey@yahoo.com.

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