It can be hard to accept that our parents are getting older. We have tremendous cultural resistance to the recognition of aging, disability and even death. At some point in our lives, our parents will possibly look to us for guidance and help with their aging issues. Our parents took care of us and we looked up to them for assistance growing up. Now as our parent’s age, we must come to the realization that as time goes on our roles will become reversed. It would be in everyone’s best interest to be prepared and ready for that day. You may meet the greatest resistance starting “the conversation” with your parents.
Finding out how mentally, physically, financially or legally prepared your parents are for the future is a tough conversation to begin. We don’t want to upset the applecart, we worry about possibly “crossing the line” in getting into their personal business. It’s as if there is a gorilla in the room, you know it’s there but not sure how to bring up the subject. Sometimes you just don’t know where to start.
Why is this you might ask? Conversation defined by Webster is an informal or familiar talk between at least two people. And yes, you’d like the discussion to be informal, but at times it must be very formal and seriously acted upon. It cannot and should not be taken lightly. Most importantly, before you have the conversation you need to look at it from both points of view.
Your parents don’t want to be a burden on you. They have been in control their entire lives and now that control may be slipping away. They may be resistant to the loss of control. Change in general, can be difficult. Human nature is sometimes resistant to any form of change, let alone a lifestyle change. Children of aging parents may find the conversation upsetting and just don’t know where to begin. In the back of your mind, you know you will eventually need to address it, but you plan to deal with it when the time comes.
Often time the family dynamic plays an important role in how and when you address the conversation. Depending on the size of the family in terms of number of children, marital status, and where your parents live all play a huge part in the overall situation. Each family’s situation is different, there are no rules in making the conversation happen.
Whether you’re an only child or have siblings, I suggest first having a family meeting before talking with your parents. If you’re alone, seek counsel from a close friend, clergy, or a professional. It lessens the burden and stress of going it alone. I can say from my own past experience, having family meetings beforehand has brought me and my siblings closer. Yes, they’ll be a few bumps in the road, but in the end the outcome will be a positive learning experience for all involved.
The types of conversations i.e. financial, legal issues, or medical and safety can happen at different times and in no particular order, each situation is different. The sooner you start the process, the better prepared you and your family will be. RegardingYourParents.com can help with this process in providing you with resources, and information relating to eldercare and your community. Don’t wait until a crisis occurs before researching your options. You cannot make intelligent and informed decisions under stress. Address the issues early on when you can talk about them in a loving and caring environment.
It’s a funny thing how phrases sum up our lives sometimes, here once again a few come to mind. “History repeats itself”, someone takes care of you at birth and then at old age. “What goes around comes around”, you were once a child now you must act as the parent/adult. Remember we are all in the journey together. Get the conversation started today.
Stay tuned for part II, Having the Conversation.