Leah Boyle is a 42-year-old wife, mother, and daughter who convinced her parents to sell their family home and relocate near her, a few towns away, so they could help each other. Leah’s husband is an airline pilot, a career that often leaves her on her own to juggle life’s surprises, and her only sister lives out of state. She leans on her parents’ wisdom and occasional babysitting as much as they rely on her to fetch the mail when it’s icy.
Her 12-year-old son and twin 9-year-old daughters are involved in everything from student council to soccer, and while the kids’ lives appear to be speeding by, her parents’ are slowing down. Both her mom and dad are retired from lifelong careers in medicine, and they accept the physical limitations of growing older. But neither they nor Leah could have predicted the emotional roller coaster ride that poor health would bring.
Sometimes it seems like it will all be OK, and, other times, the writing’s on the wall. Sometimes, there’s more love than logic, and there are always more questions than answers. It’s a daughter’s journey about coming to terms with her parents’ declining health and the struggle between their desire to stay independent and her desire to keep them safe. It’s a complicated route to an unknown destination.
BrightStar Care is honored to feature Leah’s personal story, experiences shared by many adult children as their parents grow older and caregiving roles begin to reverse. Follow Leah's journey here.
All names, including the author’s, have been changed to protect identities, and Leah has no affiliation with BrightStar Care.
by Leah Boyle
It’s never good news when the phone rings at dawn. My mom was on the other end, and I was living three states away. Dad. Internal bleeding. ICU. Trouble shooting. I could barely grasp the words, but the false calm in my mom’s voice told me everything I really needed to know: Get home.
Of course, I knew that someday the roles would reverse—that I would need to take care of my parents like they had me—but it felt surreal. Now that it was my turn, fear settled in like a fog.
I had hours alone with panic as my front-seat passenger. What was wrong, and could the doctors fix it? What would my dad look like in intensive care, and could I stay composed? Had I remembered to pack my glasses? Should I bring food?
By the time I reached the hospital, the doctors had pinpointed a couple problems. My dad would need surgery to reattach his esophagus and stomach, which had torn apart from persistent vomiting. He had literally ripped apart his insides by throwing up over and over again. Why? Chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML.
My mom and I cried and hugged in the hallway, holding each other up as the diagnosis sank in. Little did we know that this would be the first of several health crises our family would face in coming years. We didn’t even know what we didn’t know. We had been pulled into the pool and were simply treading water.