Q: My parents are getting older, and I know I'm going to assume a larger portion of their care in the near future. What should I expect, and how do I know when it's time to take on more personal responsibility for their physical well-being?
Jim: Aging and death are inescapable realities of life. As we grow older, our bodies go through a natural aging process that involves changes in body function like these:
-- Fatigue and dizziness
-- Loss of appetite
-- Slowing of the digestive and urinary functions
-- Respiratory problems due to decreased elasticity of the lungs
-- Deterioration of skin and muscles
-- Decreasing visual acuity due to cataracts and stiffening of the lens
-- Weakened immune system
These changes are all part of the normal aging process, though your parents' organ systems may continue to work normally unless injury or illness occurs. At the same time, these physiological differences can increase an elderly person's chances of developing other problems like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis or high blood pressure.
At some point, your parents will likely need medical assistance. If you maintain a close relationship with your parents and regular contact with their physicians, you should be able to better gauge their ability to care for themselves. There will most likely come a time when they'll need your assistance with their personal needs and routine business matters. They may ask for your help at this point -- but it could be that you'll simply have to step in.
To sum up, as you walk through this season, I encourage you to stay in close touch with your loved ones and their medical providers. This is a case where there's no such thing as too much communication. I wish you the best.
Q: My 18-year marriage has been pretty rocky. My spouse and I have both done things requiring forgiveness, but we want to start fresh. How can we restore trust in our relationship?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: When it's taken years to build the walls of bitterness and suspicion in your relationship, you can't expect to tear them down in one day. Restoring trust takes time, and it's a process that requires forgiveness.
Trust is something that's earned. It can be broken fairly quickly, but the rebuilding process can take a long time. This is especially true when the offenses were really hurtful or were repeated multiple times. When you've been wounded, it's difficult to trust again unless you can see tangible evidence of change. In this case, since you've both been at fault, you need to work together to identify the things you each need to demonstrate going forward. And be realistic; you should each be able to reasonably expect from your partner:
-- Willingness to take personal responsibility without shifting blame or being evasive.
-- Determination to develop a plan to prevent further offenses.
-- Active commitment to seek counseling, individually if necessary but definitely together.
Forgiveness is also an important part of the healing process -- but this concept is often misunderstood. Forgiveness is not:
-- Condoning or excusing the offense.
-- Forgetting past abuses or injustices.
-- Minimizing or justifying negative behavior.
-- Immediately trusting the offender again.
Instead, true forgiveness is:
-- Letting go of unhealthy anger (bitterness, the silent treatment or revenge).
-- Making a commitment to work through the issues together to identify and resolve the root causes of the problem.
-- Actively rebuilding the relationship on a foundation of trust.
I strongly encourage you and your spouse to discuss these concepts with a certified marriage counselor. You can start with our staff of licensed family therapists here at Focus on the Family by calling 1-855-771-HELP (4357).
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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