Comment

Anguish and guilt at outliving adult children

Successful management of long-term conditions may mean more older people facing the cruel blow of losing adult children.
Bette_Davis

Successful management of long-term conditions may mean more older people facing the cruel blow of losing adult children.

Old age aint no place for sissies, film star Bette Davis once said, and how right she was.

It is a time when your health may not be as good as it was or when poor health starts to present a more serious threat. You can understand why the actress thought that, since fragility and weakness are inevitable, old age is a time to toughen up and face reality.

I manage a nursing home that provides care for up to 35 people, most of them in their 90s.

There have been times over the past couple of years when we have had to comfort these people through situations they, or we, had not planned for the

...

Successful management of long-term conditions may mean more older people facing the cruel blow of losing adult children.

Bette_Davis
Bette Davis pictured with Robin Williams. Picture: Alamy

‘Old age ain’t no place for sissies’, film star Bette Davis once said, and how right she was.

It is a time when your health may not be as good as it was or when poor health starts to present a more serious threat. You can understand why the actress thought that, since fragility and weakness are inevitable, old age is a time to toughen up and face reality.

I manage a nursing home that provides care for up to 35 people, most of them in their 90s.

There have been times over the past couple of years when we have had to comfort these people through situations they, or we, had not planned for – the death of their adult children.

They have had to deal with terrible events they had thought unlikely. The guilt they feel at being alive and relatively well – at a time when the management of many life-threatening, long-term conditions can involve almost anything to prevent death – when their adult children have died.

Around the bedside

We may be coming to a time when dying of old age with the family around the bedside becomes less commonplace, simply because there are too few family members left.

Outliving one’s own children has always been considered a cruel turn of events, but I have two residents whose sons have died over the past two years, and another whose daughter is seriously ill and likely to die before her.

All three have said ‘this shouldn’t be’ and have asked ‘why has this happened?’

They are being cared for, and their symptoms are being managed and treated, but trying to comfort someone in their 90s who is experiencing so much anguish and sadness has left me with more questions than answers.


About the author

Julie_Laidlaw

Julie Laidlaw is manager of Singleton Nursing and Residential Home in Ashford, Kent

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursingolderpeople.com
  • Bi-monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs