What do you Want? Quality versus Quantity of Life

Are your Parents a Mess? Vol. 2

 

I stand in the grocery store aisle with a list from my mom. Soda is on the list, and it is on sale buy 2 cases get 3 free. My 87-year-old dad loves soda, doesn’t want to drink anything else.  But it is killing him.  Literally.

 

If he had his way, he would drink soda all day long.  This, in spite of the fact that he continually suffers from UTIs, which slowly deteriorate his cognition, his ability to be himself.

 

But I am the one in the grocery store with the list, the one who has to decide whether or not to buy the soda.  Tears in my eyes, I explain my dilemma to the poor guy stocking the shelves.  His response?  “When I’m 87, I want to drink what I want to drink.”

 

Yes. I understand this reasoning. But I cannot reconcile it to the man himself.  Dad is so intelligent, gifted in the arts, a real renaissance man.  And he is willing to kill himself with sugar? And I am supposed to be a part of it?

 

We don’t ignore the problem.  We talk to dad about the need to drink more water, buy him special cups, straws, etc. He takes a sip and acts like it’s car acid then asks for the soda. How far should do we push? Is this how he wants to end his life?

 

Torn between two sides, I satisfy my conflict by buying the 5 cases and deciding to bring them to him one week at a time; in the meantime, he has a UTI and is confused about everything.

 

I’m still looking for the answers.  And buying the soda.

 

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Quality of life versus quantity of life faces families caring for Perennials everyday.

 

We want to keep our loved ones safe and healthy as long as possible, but when those efforts start to diminish quality of life, is it worth it?

 

The soda debate is a perfect example.  It is well known that as we age, the number of taste buds decreases, and the ones left rest begin to shrink.  After age 60, we begin to lose the ability to distinguish different tastes.  In order to find foods that taste good, older adults are drawn to high salt, high sugar, and high fat foods…all the things we know are bad for their health.

 

Is her dad drinking the soda because he is ignorant of the health consequences?  Probably not.  He is trying to be “bad”?  Also no.  The soda is what tastes good to him.  If it stops tasting good, he will stop drinking it and move on to another beverage.

 

So should she feel guilty about buying soda?  Can she change her dad’s behavior?  Probably not.  I can tell my children that they have to eat their fruits and veggies.  But tell my parents?  That is a whole different ballgame.  It is as if an unwritten rule exists that says, “If I changed your diaper you don’t get to tell me what to do.”  My parents do not have to, and usually will not, listen to me.

 

We also cannot forget that if our parents are cognitively intact the law protects their right to make decisions, even bad ones.  In the same way that all of make decisions that are not in our best long-term interests, our parents have a voice in the quality and quantity of their lives.

 

So what do we, as the people who love and care for them, do about choices that make our loved ones happy, but may actually shorten their lifespan?

 

One option is to enlist help.  Sometimes getting an outside authority, such as a physician, to make the point works better than hearing it from family.

 

If your loved one still won’t listen?  I have three words for you: Let it go.

 

There is only one person you can control: You.

You can offer advice, and do as much as you can to help, but there may be the issues that you simply cannot change.

You can, however, tell your children to remind you of this experience when you are 87 and disagreeing with them.

 

Got a caregiving story you want to share?  Tell us about it in the comments below!

 

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