Growing Older with Bipolar: Caring for Aging Parents

My nephew David with my mother Rebecca

My mom is a powerhouse. She’s 78 and has the energy and lifestyle of a 60 year old woman. For this reason, I have been able to ignore the reality that my mom is aging. When I think about the aging process of my most important supporter in life, I realize that one day our roles might change. One day, I might be the one who has to be the #1 support.

As a person with bipolar, I am not sure what I will be able to do. I will not be able to stay with her at night. I will not be able to take care of her if she gets ill. I will not be able to travel much or financially take care of her if needed.

I am lucky. My mom is a healthy person. Her aging so far has been a normal process. It has not been about illness or poor health choices. Also, she is financially independent.

My thought processes around this are for the what if something happens that I will have to address. My mother’s aging process doesn’t change the fact that I have bipolar disorder.

My goal is to talk about all of this now while she is healthy. It’s time for my brother and myself to sit with my mom and talk about the future. What will we do if she needs some kind of care at age 90 for example? What if her excellent health changes? What if she needs us in a way she doesn’t need us now?

The management plan I created in the Health Cards and talk about in Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder and Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder teaches us to plan ahead by looking for triggers and understanding the impact of our lifestyle choices.

My bipolar is managed, but it will be rocked completely when my mother is gone from this earth. What can I do to prepare for this now?

My own life is planned around bipolar disorder management. What will happen if I have to take care of the needs of someone else?

This is not being pessimistic. This is being SMART! My family talks openly about mental health, aging, money and life in general. I had to facilitate this many years ago as I knew I would not be able to survive the serious nature of the bipolar and psychotic disorder I live with daily.

It has brought me peace. Yes, my mother is aging. As I grow older with bipolar disorder, I will face the death of loved ones more and more. I will face the changes in the body of my older relatives. I will face the changes in my own body as I age. Bipolar doesn’t change as we age. We can definitely learn to manage it better, but it doesn’t get better as we grow older unless we work towards this goal every day.

Let’s face reality as we age. Aging ourselves means we are alive. Dealing with the aging process of the people we love means we are alive! Bipolar needs planning.

If you have an older parent, what is your plan to be there for this parent while still managing your bipolar disorder? If thinking about this brings you anxiety and stress now, think of what it will be like if something actually happens.

We are strong. We can handle triggers. Let’s talk openly with our loved ones about growing older- we can tell them what we need as we grow older with bipolar and let them know what we will be able to do or what we will have to pass on to someone else.

Honesty now saves future pain.

We can do this!



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