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The Gift Of Caring For My Parents

Updated: Jun 13

By Chisanga Marie Kashoki

About twelve years ago, when I made the decision to move to the house right behind my parents home. So many people laughed at me and passed so many discouraging comments like,“You are a mummy’s baby.” “You are way too old to live with your parents.” “How will you have any freedom?’ Little did I know that this move would be the best living arrangement for my parents and me.

My parents have three children. I am the oldest and also the only child that lives in Zambia. Despite the distance between my siblings and the family based in Lusaka we are a tight nuclear family and very supportive of each other.

Covid Pandemic

My dad and mom are 87 and 82 years old respectively. As they started to head towards their golden years, they had several health issues but were able to bounce back and were generally able to perform daily life activities on their own. My siblings and I had taken steps to ease their life such as hiring a full-time driver so that they could visit friends and go on outings.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, my parents' health, particularly dad's, changed significantly. He suffered a stroke which left him unable to walk or care for his personal needs. My mother also required major surgery as she had a benign tumour in her stomach. She had two thirds of her stomach removed. Caring for my parents during this time was extremely scary and exhausting as hospitals during Covid were places you didn’t want to go to and there was no support as everyone was social distancing. Visits from well meaning friends could mean death.

My parent’s health has continued to decline post covid and so my siblings and I had to chart a way forward so that we could support our parents as best we could. Caring for my parents has been both rewarding and challenging and this journey has taught me so much.

Appropriate Health Care

Following dad’s stroke, the first week we tried to care for him by ourselves, remember this was Covid times. The main caring fell on mom because traditionally I could not assist in looking after my dad’s personal needs. But she was wiped out and I realised that soon I would have two parents in serious health condition. Mom was also not so well herself. At this time, we didn’t know that she had a growing tumour. It was both scary and frustrating for mom and dad.

I mentioned my concerns about my parents to a friend and he suggested a company that provides home care assistants who could look after dad. My siblings and I thought that this was the best option for us and we signed up for a 24-hour caring service. I can't say how thankful I am to my friend for suggesting this option. I didn’t even know such services were available. This cost is not cheap, and my sister is bearing the brunt of this expense. But for anyone caring for elders who have significant health challenges having a trained carer is a great option.

Have a Support Network

Like I said before, my family is a nuclear one, so we don’t have a barrage of relatives coming in to help and support our parents in their illness. They have their own lives. Despite this, my parents', siblings, my children and I have formed a strong support network so that we are all supported as we care for my parents. My parents are always accompanied to doctor’s appointments to ensure that all their concerns are addressed. We have hospital visit rotas, weekly whats app calls and daily voice notes to check up and support one another. This has been a blessing particularly for me who is hands on in caring for mom and dad.

We have also engaged the church and counsellors to support my parents in this hard time. My parents get Holy Communion every week as they are not able to go for Mass. We have tried as much as possible to be there for our parents emotionally, offering comfort and reassurance as they navigate the challenges of ageing.

A Safe home environment

My parents’ health made us re-evaluate their living environment to ensure that it was safe and accessible. We had to make several modifications to their home. We had to redesign their bathroom so that it is wheelchair accessible. We had to install grab bars in the bathrooms, purchase bath and toilet seats for the elderly, install a ramp in the living room, and hire a hospital bed for Dad.

All these measures are to ensure their safety and prevent falls. A fall in the elderly can be a death sentence. I often tell young couples who are building their forever home to future proof it for their old age when knees, backs and eyesight fail.

Managing Finances

As my parents became less able to do things for themselves, particularly dad, we had to take charge of their finances because they were unable to go to the bank, use the ATM or pay bills. They have some funds for their daily needs, but we have had to support them by providing finances for health care. We consulted a lawyer who helped us draw up a power of attorney so that we could manage their finances and health care legally.

As I have watched my parents age, I have become intentional about saving as much as possible for my old age. Old age is expensive, and I do not want to be destitute or a burden.

Prioritise Self-care!

The people who laughed at me for moving into the house behind my parents have now turned around to say “Well done. It is wonderful that you are there for your parents.”

Indeed, I see it as a blessing I am on call 24/7 and I plan my life around their needs. But after a couple of years, I burnt out. Navigating their health, Covid and my retirement ( at the time ) my own health took a beating. I forgot the thing that they tell you on planes “Put your mask on before you help others.” I forgot to care for myself. I gained weight, developed hypertension and aged terribly. So I learnt how important the act of prioritising my own well-being was.

These days I make time for activities that I enjoy. I spend time in my garden, run my farming business, read, I colour, walk for exercise, visit friends, get involved in church activities and go on occasional outings. Daily Mass also centres me to face the day.

Be Prepared

As my parents navigate their old age it has given me tips and tools to prepare for mine;

  • Stay active and eat as healthy as possible.

  • Do things you enjoy.

  • Stay in touch with friends. In fact be intentional about this old age can be very lonely

  • Stay connected to your faith.

  • Put aside money for your medical bills.

  • Buy a burial plot and funeral insurance policy.

  • Future proof your home

  • Most of all live, love and laugh!

Caring for your parents is such a bittersweet blessing as you remember what they used to be and how they are can be hard. But the joy, the love and the memories we are creating will last a lifetime and can be passed onto future generations.

Chisanga is a farmprenuer, mom of four adult children, an avid gardener, reader and prayer warrior. Connect with her on Instagram  @Chisangakashoki and  @Kumela_zm.

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Edited by Bwalya M Mphuka

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Thank you so much for being so vulnerable with us. I have learnt more than I expected to from this article.


May the Lord Bless the work of your hands. Thank you for sharing.

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