Our parents have survived a lot. In addition to raising us, they’ve gone through great depressions, great recessions, and numerous wars. Now, as they enter their golden years, many of us are being confronted with an uncomfortable role reversal as Mom and Dad become the ones who need care.
Just as kids are eager to prove their independence from their parents, parents want to prove to their adult children that they can keep their independence. More often than not, though, things like paying bills in a timely manner get forgotten. This becomes a problem when insurance policies get canceled or utilities start to get shut off.
It’s at this point that a wide range of assistance should start to come into play. It may be as simple as automating all their bills, or as complex (and difficult) as looking into home care or assisted living facilities. Hopefully the difficulties are spotted early and the assistance can be a gradual progression. Just like when dealing with children, parents can usually handle a small amount of assistance in the beginning, such as bill paying or grocery shopping. Then, over time, the assistance can increase without them feeling like they’ve all of a sudden given up all of their control and independence.
But, at some point in time, the children are going to realize that Mom and/or Dad cannot live without continuous assistance. So how do we get them to start thinking about someone coming in or moving to an assisted living? One of the big things is that you need to pick a time and place without distractions to bring up your concerns.
I don’t like to keep making the comparisons between seniors and children, but these types of conversations are very similar. You need to get the other person to come to the conclusion that they need some type of assistance, either at home or at moving to a facility. You just telling them your reasons and conclusions will never work. If they come to the conclusion on their own, then they feel like they’re still in charge.
In speaking with them, you should try to speak only for yourself. Telling them how friends, neighbors, or other family members feel will just make them think you’re ganging up on them. The only other opinion I would suggest bringing into the conversation would be their physician’s. If the doctor said they need assistance, that’s a person of authority speaking. And then ask the parent how they feel about it or what could we do about it.
Unfortunately, their processing power may have diminished, so keep it slow and talk about one issue at a time. And, at all costs, keep your own emotions and reactions in check. It’s not about you, it’s about them. So just try to listen and remember that they are still your parents. Hopefully, they’ll understand your concerns and come to the decision by themselves that something needs to be done.
Believe it or not, one way to get a senior thinking about moving is by talking to them about the family heirlooms. Sometimes part of the anxiety someone feels when leaving their house behind comes from a sense of not being in charge of all the mementos. If the parents have some say in where things go, they may feel that they are still in control and that all their past will not be lost.
Just keep in mind that the consequences of saying and doing nothing can be tragic, from missed doses of important medication to major injuries. If a parent falls and is out of reach of a phone, he or she could lay there for days until you or a neighbor get there.
Stories like these are what keep adult children up at night, but they can also serve as motivation. It’s never too early to start taking baby steps today with your favorite senior. Try perusing incoming mail or checking their medications. A month of pills should last a month, not two weeks or two months. Even going through old photos together is a great way to start a conversation about what they used to do for you. Now you may need to start doing those things for them.