Read our blog for Ray Stone Senior Living in Sacramento, California

Ray Stone Senior Living

View our blog below for the latest on what's happening around our communities!

Residents riding bikes together near Ray Stone Senior Living in Sacramento, California
Return To Blog
Cherries on a plate

Aging Parents – Life Lessons with a Cherry on Top


If there’s anything I’ve learned the past three years, it’s that nothing can prepare you for the day life suddenly changes with your aging parents.  For as long as you can remember, you were fortunate enough to have parents who were strong, capable in so many areas, independent, mobile, and most importantly, healthy.

Then, life has a way of creeping in, or more like rushing in Niagara Falls style, and changing the health of your parents on a moment’s notice. And not just with one parent, but with both parents, and within months of each other and multiple hospital stays.  The “cherry on top” is that everything hit within the first 2 weeks of 2020. First for my mom, and a few months later for my dad.  And it didn’t stop…life kept adding more “cherries” and would continue to toss serious health and medical surprises at them the next coming months all while dealing with the world shutting down due to COVID-19 and the new normal all of us were trying to adapt to (remember the toilet paper shortage!?).  I know many people say life only throws at you what you can handle, but I will be honest and say I was starting to get really sick of “cherries” at this point and the havoc they were wreaking on my sweet parents.

Now, with the holiday season fast approaching, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on the past three years and the lessons I’ve learned (and continue to learn) through all the ups and downs and health tribulations with my elderly parents and our family.   

So, if I knew now, what I didn’t know then, here is what I wish I could go back and tell myself three years ago at the end of 2019. By sharing my thoughts and experiences, I am hoping to give others a little help, humor (still the best medicine), and hope if they find themselves in a similar situation with their aging loved ones. No one wants to go through tough things feeling all alone.  So, grab your ice cream scooper and favorite toppings (no cherries please) and let’s dig in…

  • Don’t take anything for granted.  In 2019, I hosted my parents for Thanksgiving in my one-bedroom apartment. They live over two hours away and little did I know then, that would be the last time they would be able to travel to see me at my place. Enjoy the moments with your aging loved ones, even if they’re stressful at times, for whatever reason, because you never know when it could be the last time that moment occurs together.   
  • Stress shows up in different ways. There are the obvious ways, like the gray hairs that are popping up faster than popcorn, but stress also shows up when you realize you are withdrawing from your favorite activities, finding yourself constantly agitated, or finding yourself wanting to permanently turn off your phone and move to a place where no one is around, and Wi-Fi doesn’t exist (Antarctica wasn’t looking so bad at the time). 
  • Give yourself grace.  This was a tough one!  Seeing all the changes my parents were facing was one of the toughest things I’ve experienced.  My dad was always the “Fix-it man” growing up and I think I got part of that gene.  I tried my best to be patient, caring and understanding, but when things are drastically different with aging loved ones than they used to be, and you can’t fix it, it’s not easy. Sometimes you have moments with them that aren’t your best or brightest. Give yourself grace.  
  • Give your aging (insert family member or loved one here) grace.  Remember those people all around you that you love that are also aging and have their own set of dilemmas? Give them grace too.  Throughout the years, especially the last 2, my mom would kindly remind me, “You never know what it’s like to be someone else and what they are going through.” If someone is cranky with you, or vice versa, it’s often because they (or you) are stressed or scared. Scared of what they are going through, scared of the unknown, or scared of the future.  Give them grace. And give them grace to handle it in ways that work best for them and their life (which also means it might be at a different pace or direction than you’re used to, but that’s okay).
  • Find an outlet. Any outlet.  It doesn’t matter what it is (okay, it does to a degree, I’m not going to go bail anyone out of jail, so don’t do that) but find something, no matter how big or small, that adds a little piece of happiness, normality, and joy to your life. Whether it is reading your favorite book for the tenth time, walking around your favorite park, calling a friend who always makes you laugh (because you didn’t end up moving to Antarctica after all and do have cell service), or ordering takeout from your favorite restaurant to give yourself a break from cooking (that package of kale salad mix will still be in your fridge tomorrow), just do it.  For me, my outlet turned out to be gardening. Plants and flowers started taking over my balcony and since I couldn’t travel at the time due to the pandemic, I did what any plant lover would do and brought the Amazon Forest to me via Green Acres Nursery.
  • Release the control. I learned to accept (it took longer than I’d like to admit) that I couldn’t control or fix my parents’ medical and health conditions, as much as I tried to (out of love). I had to learn to release the control (and go plant something instead) and just be there for them in other ways that didn’t require me trying to “fix” everything. Seeing a loved in the hospital and all the effects of serious health conditions can definitely take a toll, not only on them, but also on the ones caring for them.
  • Adapt.  This has been another tough one! My dad is 87 and was out doing yardwork and up on ladders cleaning out the gutters (much to my mom’s dismay) into his early 80’s. Now, due to balance issues, he needs to use a walker (much to his dismay) to keep himself safe, and he can no longer do the yardwork he always loved and getting on a ladder is definitely out of the question. One thing he never lost is his persistence though.  He still insists he can climb a ladder to change the smoke detector battery. And that’s when I call in my brother.  Seeing a parent lose their independence in certain areas (like doing the yardwork, building things around the home, or driving) can be challenging and especially tough on that individual.  But finding little ways to make them still feel like we need their help and that they are useful, valued contributors in the family is very important for their well-being. So, with the off chance they say they would love to do the laundry, and they end up mixing the reds with the whites, just let it be, and save your “new” pink sweater for Valentine’s Day.
  • Reevaluate Housing Options.  As times goes on and everyday tasks and care around the home become more difficult, it can be a good (but not always easy) time to reevaluate housing options.  Many times, you will find your aging loved ones can no longer take care of themselves at home on their own. Or the maintenance and operations of a house become overwhelming and stressful and necessary tasks aren’t being completed.  This is a great opportunity to discuss the positive benefits of possibly relocating and downsizing to an independent senior living community (or other form of senior living that best suits their needs) where the day-to-day tasks like housekeeping, maintenance and meals are handled for them while providing a sense of security and safety. We know this can often be a difficult discussion to have, so it might ease the stress if everyone enjoys a small glass of wine first. Moving to a senior living community can also offer them (and concerned family members) less things to worry about and time to enjoy other interests. An added bonus? Moving to an independent senior living community completely eliminates worrying your aging loved one is going to attempt to get on a ladder and try to clean the rain gutters one last time!

Fast forward to the present. My parents are still moving forward and adapting to all the health changes of the past two years to the best of their ability.  They are moving a little slower now, and need some assistance at times, but they are here, and I am grateful for that. As for me, things are still a work in progress (but my plants are still alive and much to my mom’s happiness, I have cancelled my move to Antarctica).

So, I will leave you with this. When life hands you cherries (or a cherry orchard at this point), cut their blossoms and put them in a vase. Apparently, they smell faintly like lilacs. And I do like lilacs. 😊

Learn more about Ray Stone Senior Living!