Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Eldercare Tip: When Crisis Comes to Your Aging Parent, Try Prayer

"Whisper a prayer in the morning..."

In the sixties I first sung these lyrics as a teenager in church youth group. Every Sunday someone would request it. Over the decades, as I grappled with life--including struggles with my aging parents--that chorus came to me again.

"Whisper a prayer at noon.  Whisper a prayer in the evening, t'will keep your heart in tune. "  Though simple, that song has meant the world to me, especially at life's crossroads.  Particularly as my siblings and I faced difficult decisions dealing with Daddy and Mother.

Daddy struggled with Parkinson's.  A few months before he died, my brother, sister and I were forced into a corner.  Daddy had contracted pneumonia due to aspiration.  His doctor said he might be able to prolong his life somewhat--and the key was somewhat--by installing a feeding tube.  But was it worth the effort? I remember feeling helpless, torn over what to do.

Perhaps you've felt a bit like this.  We all seem to be caught off guard when we suddenly must make decisions for our parents that are so hard, and it many cases, so final.  In my case, I struggled.  I agonized, and finally, I prayed.

I had no magic words.  Or barely any words at all.  But I'd been taught by my father and mother to pray early on, so pray is what I did.

Sitting in the presence of God and advocating for my parents was scary, at first.  I fidgeted.  I daydreamed, but finally I began to "get it. " Hadn't we been advocating with doctors, nurses and other authority figures on our parents' behalf?  And wasn't God more reliable than these flawed humans?

Lifting up my parent to God's loving care was better than magic.  We kids didn't have to play God or make faultless decisions.  Our role was to be God's instruments, used by Him and guided by Him.

We decided to consult Daddy about the decision.  Jim, my brother, told him about the procedure, and said, "We want you to help us decide.  Do you want the doctor to do this?"  Daddy nodded.

Prayer may not have changed the outcome;  Daddy's life was probably not lengthened by much.  But the practice of giving God my parent--and realizing that my brother and sister were doing the same, made all the difference in the world.

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