Patience with Parents: When the Shoe is on the Other Foot.


I always enjoy listening to Pamela Wilson’s Generation Podcast because of her no-quick-fix, no-nonsense, down-to-earth presentations. Today’s selection: “How to Have Patience With Elderly Parents” – The Caring Generation® Pamela Wilson   | Mar 31, 2021 | 

Click on the link below for the tips and insights that Pamela Wilson, a true caregiving expert, shares: 
How to Have Patience With Elderly Parents – The Caring Generation® (

My response:

When you write a book and it is published, the expectation is for you to sell yourself as an expert on the subject.  But I am no expert on the subject of caregiving.  This has been disclosed on the back cover of the book, What to Do about Mama?  “It isn’t a book by ‘experts’, but by regular people in the trenches—people like you.”

Do I have Caregiving Experience?  Yes. 

  1. First of all, I was an Assessor at the Area Agency on Aging for over four years.  It was my job to visit seniors in their homes in order to administer comprehensive assessments to determine their needs and eligibility for services.  I saw firsthand the challenges for seniors and their caregivers, who were, in general, family caregivers. 
  2. Secondly, I was a caregiver for my mother-in-law for seven years, four full-time when she moved into our home. 

I have known a number of caregiving experts who, later in their careers, became family caregivers themselves.  I think it’s safe to say that it was a common experience for these experts to be full of confidence at the onset and humbled as their caregiving role progressed. 

Whenever I read a caregiving article or listen to a podcast such as this one, I think: “I have a relevant example of this in my book.”  And then I am hopeful that other caregivers will find the book, read it, and be helped by all the good information shared by the three dozen or so caregiver contributors who imparted their real-life caregiving experiences. 

I would like to point something out about the recommendations given by experts—those that have to do with establishing amicable interaction with “the others.”  (This is a term I use for the players relevant to caregiving relationships.) No matter how well you apply the lessons learned about establishing priorities, employing problem-solving skills, setting boundaries, utilizing good communication skills, building healthy relationships, and practicing patience—you cannot control either the responses or the choices others make. 

On the other hand, it taught me to take each day as it came and to deal with whatever that day brought. It taught me more about patience than anything else I have ever done.

What to Do about Mama? p. 62

Since we have no crystal balls with which to view the future, it is really important to not rush into the decision to assume the role of caregiver without thoughtful consideration beforehand. On its face, becoming “The Caregivercan seem like a quick fix—timesaving and convenient.  But in the long term, you can count on the fact that your care receiver’s needs will increase, sometimes to your breaking point.  Oftentimes the caregiving journey keeps on going and going—just like the Energizer Bunny—for 5-10-15-20-years or more. 

I have learned a lot of patience and some compassion, but I would never have chosen this task if I had known what lay ahead.

What to Do about Mama? p. 105

Caregivers are a busy and rushed group of people, often juggling work and caregiving responsibilities—trying to attend to  the needs of parents, spouse, and children alike. It is common for a caregiver to feel overworked and underappreciated.  As the care receiver heads down the slippery slope, more and more mitigation is required to meet increasing needs.  It is important to keep communication open, to really understand how your relationship partner is feeling, and to talk to each other for accurate understanding. 

A few weeks later I went to a caregiver’s workshop. The young woman sitting next to me turned to me and, with tears streaming down her face, told me the following story: My mother was taking care of my grandmother in my uncle’s home. When Grandma died, my uncle said my mom must move out. She came to live with me, and now she sits and does nothing. She has no interest in my five-year-old son. She feels it’s her turn to be cared for. So, I work full time, take care of my family, and now my mother too.

What to Do about Mama? p. 1

Improving patience becomes a primary need, and the results of becoming more patient are beneficial to interactions with everyone. When criticism is thrown about, caregivers may feel demoralized

“Everything is for your convenience!”

What to Do about Mama? p. 21

On the other hand, the more that the care recipient expresses kind expressions of happiness and lets the caregiver know that what they’re doing is actually making them feel better—that they really appreciate it—the more caregiver distress is diminished.  Gratitude goes a long way.

After the next incident of incontinence, a relatively short time later, my mother-in-law said, “I appreciate all the things you do for me. I appreciate your patience.”

What to Do about Mama? pp. 19-20

Again–click on the link to listen to the Podcast:
How to Have Patience With Elderly Parents – The Caring Generation® (

Reflection of the Future

reflect the future

   AARP Photo

Photo and original text in Spanish by Guillermo Peña. 

Translation to English by Sergio Cadena

My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through. If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”… Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep.

When I don’t want to take a bath, don’t be mad and don’t embarrass me. Remember when I had to run after you making excuses and trying to get you to take a shower when you were just a girl?

When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way … remember, honey, I patiently taught you how to do many things like eating appropriately, getting dressed, combing your hair and dealing with life’s issues every day… the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through.

If I occasionally lose track of what we’re talking about, give me the time to remember, and if I can’t, don’t be nervous, impatient or arrogant. Just know in your heart that the most important thing for me is to be with you.

And when my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked. When those days come, don’t feel sad… just be with me, and understand me while I get to the end of my life with love. I’ll cherish and thank you for the gift of time and joy we shared. With a big smile and the huge love I’ve always had for you, I just want to say, I love you … my darling daughter.

An additional comment:

If the young woman really “sees” she realizes that she is looking into a mirror that reflects her future.

I can identify with what the older woman is saying (especially about technology), but would like to add a thought of my own.  Maybe some of you would like to make additions, too. 

“When as your mother, I express an opinion or make a suggestion, please don’t show a lack of regard for my input. Replace the “‘I’ll do it my way” response with, ‘That’s a good idea,’ or ‘That’s an interesting thought.’ Do you remember how I listened to you and gave you support and encouragement?”

Barbara Matthews




My Counterpart: a Go-To Grammy



My grandchildren’s Grammy, in other words—my counterpart—passed away on Father’s day.  Up until the last half year of her life, she was a vital woman and a go-to grandma.  She and her husband were married for nearly 44 years–two months less than I have been married to mine.  He wrote her eulogy, a beautiful tribute to his wife and their marriage.  The eulogy was hard for him to deliver at the funeral; he did it, but broke down.  My 6-year old granddaughter sat beside me, my arm around her holding on tight.  She cried when she saw her grandfather cry.  My 3-year-old grandson was a little wiggly in my lap; he being too young to understand.

Really, none of us “understands.”  Sure we know that we all live, and then we all die.  But we would drive ourselves to madness if we tried to make sense of the who’s and the how’s and the why’s, or the “fairness” of it all.

It’s also so hard to know what to say to someone who is unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer and decides not to undergo treatment.  So I tried to express my feelings by telling her:

“I am thinking about…

how overwhelmed you must have felt at the seemingly sudden onset of your disease;

how difficult it has been for you to decide what path to take;

the strength of your convictions in deciding your course of action;

your incredibly difficult decision and the courage of your choice;

how you are living life on your own terms;

the wonderful job you have done raising your children who have pulled together in providing support, in respecting your right to choose, and in demonstrating their unconditional love for you;

how much your daughter loves you;

how I hope my son is able to tell you how deeply he loves and respects you, but that if he cannot find his way to speak of his emotions, that you will trust me when I say that he does;

how I will always tell our grandchilden how much love their Grammy has for them and how much joy they have given you.”

And then, at a later date, when the end was drawing near, I sent:

“A Heartfelt Message”

You have given our family a precious gift—YOUR DAUGHTER.

Your kind and gentle nature lives through her.

You have instilled in her the values of  love, patience and honesty.

And so it passes—from mother, to daughter, to granddaughter.

Strong women, all.


I can only hope that these words somehow helped.  I think they are what I would like to hear.

Barbara Matthews