I just finished reading Hope I Don’t Die Before I Get Old, a collaboration between two friends, Mary Boone Wellington and Tracey Bowman, who are the primary caregivers for their elderly parents. They share their stories in alternating chapters and include useful information on all kinds of things you might not know you need to know about, like common medical problems of the elderly, Long Term health insurance, how to clear clutter and more.
There are probably a bunch of books like this on the market, and as baby boomers age there will be more. The appeal here is the conversational style; it’s like listening to friends tell stories over coffee at Panera’s, only with more candor. If you approach the book with that expectation you can excuse the occasional typo and abundance of exclamation points. It is, after all, self-published, but don’t let that stop you. When I met co-author Mary, she observed that it was “…pretty well written considering the fact that I’m a visual artist.” That honesty is a big part of the book’s charm.
Both Mary and Tracey struggled in their roles as caregivers. They were, occasionally, resentful of the time and effort it took, and the sense that their elders were not as cooperative or appreciative as they should have been. That may sound shocking, but I’m guessing it’s not unusual. I’ll bet every child of an elderly parent has had similar thoughts, and then been horrified and guilt-ridden. However, Hope I Don’t Die Before I Get Old posits that the negative feelings may actually make you a more effective caregiver (which may be why the sub-title is How to Survive Old Age: Your Own or Someone You Love) if you pay attention to what those thoughts are really telling you.
After expending effort to make her mother’s house safer and enduring a scolding in response, Mary was hurt, even as she realized that her mother “…longed to be on her own again…without me asking her how she felt, or what she wanted for lunch, or whether she wanted a nightlight in the kitchen.” Her frustration caused her to vent to her friend, Tracey, who helped her understand that “…this process was a kind of orphaning, and my anger was transparent cover for my sadness and fear.”
Who wouldn’t be scared by the prospect of becoming an orphan? That primal fear may be what drives children to worry about their parents long before their parents are inclined to worry about themselves. There may come a day when you have to intervene and take away the car keys, but what if your elder decides on their own that they no longer feel safe behind the wheel? Aging isn’t easy and elders need to be able to maintain some control over their lives.
Reading Hope I Don’t Die Before I Get Old will undoubtedly make you think about your own aging as well as that of your elders. Everyone is different and YMMV, but buying the book is a small investment to make in the future that, if you’re lucky, is still a long way away.
You can buy a copy of Hope I Don’t Die Before I Get Old here.