When the Child Becomes the Caregiver
Paula Spahn wrote yesterday about a new show, “Ruth and Erica,” that is aired exclusively on the Wig Channel on YouTube, centered on a grown woman who is beginning to face the reality that her aging parents may not be so self-sufficient anymore (her father fell asleep at a stop sign – “Once!” her mother protests – while behind the wheel of his car). To make matters more complicated, her parents are in total denial of their fading capabilities and her mother, in particular, seems determined to deflect any implication that she and her husband are starting to show signs of decline: when presented with rotting food in her fridge, she tells her daughter, “I’m going to make something with that!” to which her daughter replies, “What are they? Seriously identify the fruit and I’ll put them back.”
This is a classic example of something that is going on in millions of homes across America right now. Adult children are in a tough position to make sure that their aging parents are safe (and not a hazard to innocent pedestrians or guests over for a meal), while meeting with obstinate defensiveness that their parents are “just fine.”
The production is high quality with veteran actors – Maura Tierney (of ER and News Radio fame) as daughter Erica and Lois Smith and Philip Baker Hall as her aging parents. Its subject matter gives credence to the fact that many of us are in the same situation: trying to maintain our parents’ dignity and sense of independence while ensuring their well-being.
I find myself battling my mom over what my father is capable of doing these days; I’ve written before on my situation helping my mom care for my dad, who has Alzheimer’s, and while heartbreaking to see such a vibrant, active man morph into something else, the hardest part is the struggle I’m having in getting my mom to admit that she needs help. We see through Erica’s eyes the pain and dawning realization that her parents, who have always kept her safe and cared for her, now may need her more than she needs them.
I look forward to watching all the installments of “Ruth & Erica.” Check it out for yourself and understand that you are not alone! It’s about time the entertainment industry paid more attention to this issue.