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Old 27-10-2018, 17:34   #1
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Aging Parents

I know a lot of people who live aboard and cruise are 40's, 50's, 60's... which means they have aging parents... like I do. Which brings up an "existential crisis". How do you reconcile leaving your aging parents just when they need you most?

I know some people have siblings that can help. I had a brother who passed away, and so I'm now an only child with no siblings to step in. I also have an aunt and uncle who are the same age as my parents.. their only child died a year ago, so I'm their surrogate daughter, and responsibility for their wellbeing as they age also falls on my shoulders. But my dream for my life is to cruise... how do I do that, and take care of my loved ones at the same time?

For those that have pursued their dream of cruising, how do you manage aging parents and the responsibility that falls on your shoulders for their care? Is there a lot of guilt? How did you structure your life around their needs?
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Old 27-10-2018, 18:00   #2
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Re: Aging Parents

Might sound harsh but who says its your responsibility and that you should feel guilty for living your life and pursuing your dream?

My mother made it quite clear that she could look after herself and that we should do our thing.
She got things set up as best she can as far as power of attorney to facilitate any action needed by us for her should the need arise.

We only get one shot at life and no one gets off this planet alive.
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Old 27-10-2018, 18:54   #3
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Re: Aging Parents

I AM an aging parent... and I want my kids to have a life of their own. No desire to lumber them with worries about my care, should I need it. If circumstances should find me needing care and them being in a position to offer it without excessive sacrifice, I would accept it. But if I am cruising in Australia and they are in their homes in the USA, seems unlikely!

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Old 27-10-2018, 19:47   #4
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Re: Aging Parents

hi Scarlet, it doesn't necessarily have to be an all or nothing thing either. you could cruise half the year during the good season wherever that is, then store the boat and travel back to be with family. in your case, maybe that's an ideal fit if there's the added pull of being the only next gener for them to have around.

bottom line, there's a million ways to skin the cat. you don't have to feel like you're leaving everything behind just because you want to go sailing!
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Old 27-10-2018, 19:49   #5
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Re: Aging Parents

We left to cruise full time six years ago and my parents were retired, minor health issues and relatively independent. During this period, they deteriorated, required us to make more frequent trips home. Finally, we stored the boat in Curacao and stayed at home for almost two years as they became infirm, passed away, then I had to handle estate issues. It was difficult to leave our cruising life and each person will have to make that decision. It really is no different than deciding how to handle this situation if you are on land, as each person will feel differently about responsibility and how much disruption is acceptable in their lives. Now we have gladly continued our travels and are in the Pacific, but I do not regret the last period of time I had with my parents. Just some thoughts......
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Old 27-10-2018, 20:52   #6
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Re: Aging Parents

Scarlet,

Talk it over with them all and find out what they want. They may not tell you all of it at first. As elders, many of us try to hide our physical and mental infirmities, even to ourselves. You'll need to go to unusual emotional depths with them. Do be aware, not many are afraid of being dead, but afraid of suffering while dying. Some might take great comfort from your succor while they were suffering. But none of them knows when it will happen, or even if, really. And that's another part that makes it hard to talk about.

You will need to know about wills, will you be sole executrix?, powers of attorney, and you'll have to assess how able you are to give what they need. One thing i was surprised to learn is how many copies of the death certificates one needs.....

Once you have all the agreements in place, you'll likely be able to cruise until called home. You will know what level of urgency there is in that and it's amazing; mostly when cruising you can get to fly out pretty quickly, it is only on a few long passages that you would not have a fairly quick response.

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Old 28-10-2018, 02:27   #7
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Re: Aging Parents

This is a tough one to answer since all situations can be different. My wife is 5 years younger than me, and my mother-in-law is 20 years older. My parents have already passed away. But I knew when I married my wife that her mother was part of the package . It's ok, she's a great lady.

But she is why, as I prepare for my retirement and hope to do some long-distance sailing, that I plan to do it solo. I would not ask my wife to leave her mother at this point. She's in good health, but she is old, things can happen quickly.

Anyway, my wife really has no desire for ocean sailing. But she will hopefully join me now and then when I reach those exotic locales. It's a plan that I think will work for us.
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Old 28-10-2018, 04:32   #8
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Re: Aging Parents

Tough indeed. My parents are gone, we had Mom living with us for about a year before she passed. Here’s my take; it’s all about you and who you are and your personal aspirations.

IF your self image is of the care taker and you want to a part of your parents final journey, if you want that experience, then that’s what you should do.

IF that’s not you and you would be doing it out of obligation and guilt, then probably not. They may be better off that way. It’s hard work and I can see someone getting very resentful very fast.

This isn’t the only way to look at the issue, just a bit different from what’s been offered.
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Old 28-10-2018, 05:45   #9
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Re: Aging Parents

We have been cruising full time for the last eight years and I can’t count how many cruisers we know who have had to make emergency trips home to care for an elderly parent. One friend flew from South Africa to the UK, only to find her mother recovering and in no need of assistance. She returned to South Africa and her mother died two weeks later. At least our friend had no regrets or guilt. These are uniquely personal situations.

What has made it easier on my wife, who’s father is 89, is the ability to stay in touch. She can email or call him as often as she pleases and this greatly reduces her anxiety about his health.

However, I would suggest caution if you feel that it would be difficult for you to relax should you cast off the dock lines. I feel that there are aspects of cruising that require attention and if you’re distracted by concern for an elderly parent or parents, you might be creating more difficult situations for yourself.

Good luck, fair winds and calm seas.
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Old 28-10-2018, 05:53   #10
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Re: Aging Parents

This is a tough one. We were all set to go for a five year extended cruise, we even threw our going away party with family and friends when fate stepped in. We went through this and still are after 8 years with my parents and my wifes parents. My father inlaw first, my Mom second, and my Dad in hospice care at our home for a year, while my mother inlaw became more and more debilitated from Dementia during the same time. About a year before my Dad died five years ago, my mother in-laws frequent over nighters at out home turned into full time and she has been in hospice care in our home for the past three years. Though we did sail a lot before all this it certainly stopped us dead in our tracks and our cruising kitty we had worked and saved for years for went to our parents care. As hpeer mentioned " It’s hard work and I can see someone getting very resentful very fast" We could not count on any other family members as they choose quite quickly that they had no interest at all and that they intended to go live their lives as they saw fit and would have placed our parents in a facility right away. I didn't know it at the time, but 30 years ago I married a combination of Clara Barton and Mother Theresa. A Saint I will never be worthy of. She gently always helps me see the other side of things. I chose the people who birthed us, raised and protected us, and sacrificed, to meet our needs over my hobby. That's just me. I've talked to a lot of customers who go sailing and have left their folks behind with major health issues. There are times I wonder who is really right, or if there is a right and wrong to this. As mentioned in the posts above, I would not want my daughter to ever be burdened with my care like this. I also know that if asked, when in sound mind, our parents would feel the same way. I also know that now this will all soon come to an end. But when it is all over I know my wife can sleep well knowing that she will never look back in regret. We are all nothing more than the individual choices we make throughout life. Choose carefully. It can and has ruined family relationships forever. What's your tolerance for emotional pain? Do you go sailing anyway and deal with the guilt of leaving that will certainly follow, or do you stay and spend your retirement funds and several years of your life? Sailing is easy, staying behind and giving up a dream to care for those that cared for you, "that" is hard. I've faced a lot of forks in the road during my time on Earth. For me, this decision was the the easiest and the hardest.......Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.”
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Old 28-10-2018, 06:20   #11
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Re: Aging Parents

Your info suggests you are from Kansas which limits your options a bit. If they lived near the water, I would suggest cruising more locally for a while or plan to cruise back to the area if something happens.

We went thru this a few years back and by chance we started splitting time between the boat and an RV. As it happened, the boat was up north and it was winter, so we had grabbed the RV and headed south. It worked out well as we were able to stay nearby while we went thru it. It was nice that we had our own place to go back to and decompress but we were also able to be there (they were snowbirding in Phoenix). Of course, in our case, it was over the course of about a month, if they linger for a few years, that may be more challenging.
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Old 28-10-2018, 06:57   #12
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Re: Aging Parents

It's even worse when you have an aging parent who has their own boat. The last two seasons my brother was able to take Dad for a week or so to some of his favorite places, albeit on my brothers boat.. The aging mother ship sits at the dock for sale. A source of sadness for the entire family. Many fantastic cruises in it's wake. When I am out I send pictures and cell videos that are well received but a poor substitute for the real thing. As the process continues and infirmity grows our course seems to be set. The family will rally around until the inevitable occurs. In my case I was never trapped at home or in an office so since my retirement, time at home is a blessing. I know what's out there..I will go again. I am not being deprived of experiences I have already had. Thanks for this thread folks? It's a good one.
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Old 28-10-2018, 08:14   #13
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Re: Aging Parents

Quote:
Originally Posted by valhalla360 View Post
Your info suggests you are from Kansas which limits your options a bit. If they lived near the water, I would suggest cruising more locally for a while or plan to cruise back to the area if something happens.
We are in Kansas right now, (my husband is at Fort Leavenworth on a short 2 year assignment) and have about 18 months before we buy our cruising boat and take off for the Caribbean. My parents are in Wisconsin, so we are used to being away.. but, we haven't had to worry about health issues with them up till now.

You know, it's funny.... I have no children, and assuming I outlive my husband who is older... I'll end up dying alone. I have no problem with that, actually. My mom and dad haven't really mentioned anything to us directly about taking care of them. BUT, when my brother was dying in a nursing home, my parents met many patients there, and would always mention how awful it was that these patients had no one to visit with them because they either had no family, or their children lived far away and never came to see them. So, yeah... I guess indirectly they have made me feel guilty.

On the other side of it... I have had plenty of pretty serious life struggles on my own, not to mention I've worked really hard to learn and save for this exciting journey... I certainly don't want to let go of my dream...

It's a very tough issue. I do like some of the suggestions here.... Staying with them during the hurricane season.... or staying close to airports in case I have to fly home quickly. those are reasonable options... We already have all the paperwork in order for me to handle all of their affairs, including all powers of attorney. Sadly, I'm also in charge of my uncles entire estate as well. Lots of responsibility...

Very good advice here..
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Old 28-10-2018, 13:53   #14
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Re: Aging Parents

^^^^
They didn't make you feel guilty. Most of us know we owe our parents for raising us, for doing without, to try and get us launched as well as possible. But, it all depends on the individuals involved, too.

Our society has been housing our elders in elder ghettos for a while. How you think and feel about that issue will give you some guidance. How you think about whether or not you owe your parents a debt, also will. There are many hard choices in life.

As an elder, they may not want to live with their child because of conflicting views on major issues of life. You would need to respect that, should it be the case for you. It's tough.

I don't know if you noticed the link in Tellie's post above. It is some reading he offered to us all. A bell it rang for me is that the author wrote that optimism is a choice; and we become the product of our decisions.

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Old 28-10-2018, 18:14   #15
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Re: Aging Parents

I'm older now, but I'm from a military family where separation was the norm since I left Montreal for Chicago where I went to university and then proceeded with the rest of my life away from my parents. Not in a house on the other side of the city from my parents, but in a house in another province (or state). Separation is a military reality so for us kids not being there, that is the norm.

I am watching a close friend and his wife give up significant dreams in their retirement to support his dad who is entering the frail stage. At first it seemed the right thing to do for my friend but now he is begin to resent the time demands of his chosen decision.

I was a social worker in the largest hospital in Canada's Emergency room and psychiatric emergency. I often had conversations with "kids" who were looking after a parent who was either very frail or had Alzheimer. They found the demands on them in this supportive roll to be overwhelming sometimes but they motored on with it because they felt they had a moral obligation to do so.

I would remind them they also had a moral obligation to their own spouse, their own kids to not be run down, stressed out, burned out; to be there for them. I think many parents want their kids to have their own life. Help is appreciated, but not burdensome help.

You have to find your own way in your decision, good luck.
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