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SHIFTING: If you’re reading this and caring for your parents, or feeling some need to help them more, or maybe even making big and serious decisions this very day — know you don’t walk alone. Now or down the road.

You are not alone

What happens when the children begin to care for their parents? Even bury their parents? Here’s what I’ve learned.

As I write this, I have one friend who’s sitting with her dad, on hospice in a nursing home. Another is helping her parents navigate early stages of dementia, taking over bill paying and driving. Another friend tries to help her parents manage their diabetes from two hours away. And more than a handful have, like me, already buried a parent.

We are that age. Our parents are aging.

When you lose a parent, or begin to care for a parent, there’s an unsubtle shift in life. As my friends call nursing homes and settle bills, argue with Medicare and nursing home staffs, deal with doctors and lawyers (some with good intentions and some less so), I’ve watched them become warriors.

They fight for the right answers. They meet with lawyers to talk about land and liability if Mom would get in an accident.

They sell half the farm to pay for the nursing home. They break the news to their dad.

And their hearts break.

I won’t ever forget driving away from my parents’ farm after my mother’s funeral. Mom and Dad used to stand out front and wave to us as we drove away. I looked back on that day, and it was just Dad. I felt my heart crack.

The world shifted.

But what I’ve seen over and over in every one of my friends is that God brings someone into their world who helps them: the right nurse with the right solution, the right lawyer with the right joke, the right friend with the right chocolate cake. Mr. Rogers was right when he said that in the hard times, look around and you’ll find the helpers.

And then? I see the hurting lend a hand. I am confident that God uses our grief and hardship so we can empathize and help someone else. Over and over, I can sit with a friend whose parent has cancer, and we can know, without saying a word. Others talk long-term care to each other like it’s their jobs. Still others get in a car and drive across three states with a toddler to be at a funeral.  

So if this is you — if you’re reading this and caring for your parents or feeling some need to help them more, or maybe even making big and serious decisions this very day — know you don’t walk alone. Now or down the road.

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