“So Huge, So Hopeless to Conceive–”

Emily Dickinson knew firsthand that the aging of our parents can take us by surprise.  Most of us hold an image in our hearts of our parents as they were when we were children: young, strong, and sure.  They were our providers and our protectors, and stood between us and the more frightening aspects of the world at large.  It can be difficult to let go of that comforting image.  In fact, many people won’t let go of it until tragedy strikes.

But there are consequences to waiting until tragedy strikes. At best, you pay the price of being unprepared—looking for answers to bewildering questions, unsure of where to go for help, and spending valuable time reinventing the wheel. This is the scenario described by Jessica Marquez in her article Elder Care Programs Take Center Stage as Baby Boomers Age.

At worst, the tragedy that strikes is a true tragedy, and you beat yourself up wondering what preventative measures you might have taken, what you could have done differently if only you had faced the changing situation and prepared yourself and your parents for the changes that come with age.

Marquez’s article shines a ray of hope on the situation.  In it she points out that not only are there people and programs to help you prepare for the possibility of caring for your parents, but that help may be closer than you think. With a larger percentage of the workforce moving into the “sandwich” situation of caring for aging parents and young children at the same time, some employers are reaching out to help by offering elder care assistance programs.

This comes as a relief to a lot of people because it means that if and when you find yourself having to care for elderly parents, you don’t have to start from scratch.  It means you have a starting point, and maybe even a solution, right there in your own Human Resources office.

Even if your parents are fit as fiddles, it’s worth it to look around and know what your options are should tragedy indeed strike. Don’t let yourself be caught in the same situation as Rose Stanley—frightened, in an unfamiliar place, and seemingly without resources.