By Becky Ness - Guest Blog
You see your parents slowing down and needing help with daily tasks that they have always managed. And, perhaps they are not admitting to these changes. This general decline in your parents fills you with concern and leaves you pondering, what do I do for them? It’s time for a conversation, but communicating with parents can be challenging.
First, let’s dismiss the thoughts that you are now parenting your parents. No matter your age, the parent / child relationship still holds true and strong, and should be respected. You may need to provide assistance, but that brings a change in the relationship, not a role reversal.
Be Sensitive to Parents’ Feelings
The last thing parents need is to feel that their children are now treating them like a child. Even if they are not talking about it, your parents may be struggling with a myriad of emotions. Put yourself in their shoes and consider how difficult it is for them to deal with the potential:
Loss of independence
Need to rely on their adult children
Possibility of moving from their life-long home
Needing help to manage finances
Having a professional caregiver come to their home
When you see Mom carrying an overloaded laundry basket down the stairs or Dad on a ladder cleaning out the gutters, your immediate reaction is likely to emphatically say, “no, you can’t be doing that anymore!”
Don’t say to them “you can’t do” or “you have to”. This will make them feel inadequate and defensive. That’s an immediate conversation stopper before you even get started. Instead, try the approach of saying, I’m worried and concerned about your health and safety. Whatever the situation, try to make it your problem not theirs. Acknowledge they still want to do everything they always did and then suggest you would feel better, and not worry, if they had some help.
Whenever you, or your siblings together, approach your parents for a conversation, do so when there is no looming crisis. A suggested strategy is to bring up a neutral, non-family situation as an example. Tell them you had a conversation with a co-worker who was talking about what was happening with their parents. It made you realize you don’t know the wishes and plans of your own parents. Other neutral conversation starters include:
TV shows / Movies
Books / News articles
Death of a famous person
This necessary dialogue should be ongoing. Trying to tackle all issues in what some refer to as “The Conversation” can be overwhelming for parents. This too can close the opportunity for essential future planning conversations.
The goal is to understand your parents’ wishes throughout their aging process as life transitions occur. Planning for various scenarios such as, retirement, health changes, needing in-home care, downsizing to a Senior Community, or the death of a parent is emotional for all and takes time.
Advance planning and open communication can avoid having to make difficult decisions in a crisis situation. Knowing the wishes of parents ensures it is their desires that are carried out and takes the burden off loved ones.
Becky Ness is the owner of Senior Planning Advisors in Portland, ME. Please visit her website to learn more about the services she offers: Senior Planning Advisors.