Our parents have survived a lot, in addition to raising us. 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 their independence from their adult children. More often than not, though, things like paying bills in a timely manner get forgotten and soon utilities start to get shut off. That’s usually what spurs us into looking into home care or assisted living facilities.
But how do we get them to thinking about assisted living? One of the ways to get a senior thinking about moving is by talking to them about the family heirlooms. From personal experience, I know that a large part of the anxiety someone feels when leaving their house behind comes from a sense of being “in charge” of all the mementos. When my daughter and I helped my mother clean out her house, we packed a station wagon full of pictures and memorabilia to take home with us. My mother said she felt a huge sense of relief knowing that they were being kept in the family.
Other things that you can do to help broach the subject include:
- Picking a time and place without distractions to bring up your concerns.
- Use “I” statements and speak only for yourself.
- Consider having a mutually trusted person present, or even a mediator.
- Keep it slow and talk about one issue at a time.
- Keep your own emotions and reactions in check.
- Don’t bring up the past.
The consequences of saying nothing and doing nothing can be tragic. From missed doses of important medication, to major back injuries – I recently heard of a case where a woman was alone and immobilized, out of the reach of her phone and her emergency alert device. For days she lay there, until a neighbor called the fire department, her door was broken down, and she was taken to the hospital.
That case could have turned out so much worse.
Stories like these are what keep adult children up at night, but they can also serve as motivation for us. It’s never too early to start taking baby steps today with your favorite senior. Going through the old photos together is a great way to start – you may find that mom or dad can still teach you a thing or two.
Judith Heft, Principal, Judith Heft & Associates is a personal financial concierge with offices in Greenwich and Stamford. She can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 203-978-1858.