Columnists » Talk%20it%20out

Families Look to Gay Children to Tend to Elderly Parent

by Vince Pellegrino
Monday May 7, 2012

Not being an experienced "road tripper," I reached out to my friend Frank, who is a retired firefighter who loves to travel by road, sea or air. I had planned this trek to Florida to visit my mom for her ninety-first birthday. So, with my puppy Travis in tow, the two of us took turns at the wheel.

To my delight, not only did Frank help with the driving and navigation, he also provided coolers filled with food for the long trip. Unexpectedly, he also became a source of comfort when, during my trip, my mother fell two days after her birthday and had to be ambulanced to a local hospital. Frank not only provided both emotional and physical support for my mom but also assisted in helping me place my mother into an amazing rehabilitation center following her hospital stay where she is now receiving the best care possible.

So this was one road trip that really did turn into a life-changing experience: Once again, I had to suffer through the decline of a beloved parent. Memories of my father's mental decline with Alzheimer's flooded through me as I was rushing to my mother's aid after she fell on her driveway.

Now that I am back in New York, I call my mother daily at her rehab facility. It's heartening to hear her more alert and engaging. Fearing my mother would decline in health, both physically and mentally, due to feelings of depression, I was pleased to hear her positive attitude and readiness to work with her doctors and staff.

As I write this, I wonder on how many of my gay brothers and sisters are also in the process of caring for their elderly parents oftentimes, on their own. Fortunately, I have an older brother who is a wonderful caretaker, and a beautiful younger sister who took over for me when I left Florida for home. My sister was present while my mother was transferred from the hospital to the rehabilitation center and was with her every step of the way as her husband cleaned my mother's house from top to bottom (he is a compulsive cleaner).

What more could I ask with such amazing siblings?

John R. Bailew, in an article entitled, "Gay Men and Elderly Parents" on the website BodyMindSoul , wrote, "But even if you have brothers and sisters, gay men may feel the tug to step up in a big way. Many gay men have always had a special bond with their mothers, it seems. If you have no children to care for, other family members may expect you to carry a larger share of responsibility for Mom and Dad."

On a recent phone conversation with my sister, she affirmed what the author of the article stated: She will rely more on me to assist with mom's care as she is often overwhelmed with her own responsibilities as the mother of three children, one in college and another in high school. As for my brother, he is dealing with serious health issues of his own.

So here I am, considering another trip down to Florida later this month after the school semester ends. My initial plan is to fly down South but, in hindsight, I think I might just decide to call Frank and ask if he would consider another road trip with the pup.

Dr. Vince Pellegrino has PhDs in educational theater and drama therapy from New York University and is a board-certified psychotherapist in New York City and Connecticut. He teaches communications at Hofstra University. He is currently working on a book, "Gay Communication Game," about "Gayspeak"; an interactive TV program featuring real-time therapy sessions in development. Go to Dr. Vince TV for more information.


Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook