A New Vision, A New Voice ~ The North Texas Conference
Bridging Gap of Aging Parents, Adult Children
Expert Missy Buchanan Writes on Faith and Dealing with Toll of Years
Missy Buchanan, a member of First UMC Rockwall, is an expert, speaker and prolific author on the subject of the aging. She took the time to talk with the NTC Connection about her latest book, Voices of Aging: Adult Children and Aging Parents Talk With God, set to launch in early February. It will be her seventh book for Upper Room Books.
What is the book about?
With people living longer, the number of adult children with aging parents is exploding. The purpose of this book is to help each generation learn to address their challenges in a loving, Christ-like way.
Voices of Aging: Adult Children and Aging Parents Talk With God, is rooted in conversations I have had with countless older adults and their adult children as I travel to speak at churches, retirement communities and conferences on aging. No matter if I am in Florida, Washington state or South Africa, I have discovered that families are facing similar challenges that often come with aging, including the loss of independence, transitioning to a new home setting and the need for additional care.
Even faithful members of my own congregation, First UMC Rockwall, and staff members from my publisher, Upper Room Books, have privately shared stories and asked questions about navigating the oftentimes stressful journey through aging with their own loved ones.
How is the book a devotional?
The side-by-side devotions in Voices of Aging represent the inner voice of each generation and will prompt readers to stand in the shoes of the other generation, to better understand their feelings and frustrations. Even more important, the book will help readers to look at the points of tension through the eyes of God as they reflect on a corresponding scripture, prayer and action steps. Whether the adult child and aging parent read the book together or separately, the book will hopefully spark fresh insight for dealing with the frustrations and fears they each face.
What are challenges that adult children face?
Every journey through aging is unique, but there are common potholes that many adult children experience as they come alongside their aging parents in later years. For some, it’s dealing with loved ones who refuse to give up the keys to the car when it is no longer safe for them to drive. Other adult children are struggling to help parents who refuse to accept the reality that they need additional care. Then there are complicated issues related to family dynamics, being a long-distance caregiver, and how to help an older person rediscover a sense of purpose. However, the concern I hear most often from adult children regarding aging parents is how best to balance their parent’s need for independence and privacy with their own desire to maintain their older loved one’s safety and well-being.
What was caring for your aging parents like?
I felt my entire life change as my parents’ needs increased over time. My daily activities began to revolve around their care. Any vacation or brief getaway required extensive planning and organization. I surrendered some of the leadership roles I enjoyed at church and in the community because there just wasn’t enough time or energy.
My parents chose to live in a senior living community, but they still depended on my daily presence in their lives. They took comfort in knowing that I was there for medical appointments and emergency room visits and for grocery store runs and necessary errands. I felt the weight of their well-being gradually shift onto my shoulders. But even with each new responsibility, God gave me exactly what I needed to carry on.
Journeying alongside my parents was a deeply rewarding experience. Even in the dark times, there were countless blessings. It was a season in which my faith was deepened and my heart was tendered to the frustrations and fears that older adults often feel.
Why an interest in older persons?
My interest in older adults was sparked by my relationship with my own aging parents and their friends and neighbors in senior care. I realized that as my parents were no longer physically able to attend worship services on Sunday mornings, they began to feel a disconnect with their church. During this tough season of life, they lacked spiritual nourishment.
I began to write for my parents and others at their senior living center, but God turned my efforts into much more. Voices of Aging is my seventh book for Upper Room Books, and I now get to travel the world to encourage older adults in their journey. I still visit older friends in several different senior care centers each week. I think, too, that growing up in a household in which my aging grandparents lived with us also prepared me for this special ministry that I have to share with older adults.
Even though both of my parents have passed away, I remember the stress that comes with being a caregiver for an aging parent. My father lived to be 89, and my mother died at 92. I was blessed in so many ways because my aging parents were very proactive in planning for their late life. We had a wonderful relationship.
Even as the adult child who lived nearest my parents, I never had to ask for the keys to their car or try to convince them to accept additional care. They were keenly aware of their growing needs and accepted their limitations with grace. My siblings who live about 200 miles away were always supportive in every way.