ALL in the Family
If you’ve been reading the posts over the past month you should have picked up some tips on how to build stronger relationships with your parents in order to open the dialogue about aging. In addition, you may have learned how to communicate better with your siblings (whether they are natural, step-, half-, or adopted).
I’d like to extend that family circle a bit further in the discussion about aging parents, splitting the duties, and handling the inevitable changes. This final circle is the people you live with, love, and who may be the major focus in your lives. I’m referring to your spouse or significant other
When dealing with aging parents, especially if you are in a relationship, married, or a parent yourself your loyalties and obligations will conflict at some point. Do you leave your child at day care an extra couple of hours so you can take care of mom’s errands? Maybe you have to miss an important dinner celebration with your fiancé because dad is in the hospital and needs some cheering up.
There are any number of scenarios where trying to juggle your multiple roles as wife, husband, mother, father, daughter, son, caregiver, power of attorney, or holder of the health care proxy will interfere in your every day life. In order to keep the intrusions to a minimum requires foresight, planning, and collaboration with the other important people in your life.
Spouses and significant others may not be present at every family meeting, but they should be consulted before you commit to any long-standing plan or obligation related to your parents. They may be able to point out reasons why you should, or should not, take on a specific task. Discussions and collaborative decision-making may not be easy, but it is essential for maintaining harmony within your home. Under no circumstances should you ever volunteer the services of your spouse or significant other. It is their personal decision to participate or not in the care of your parents.
Resistance from a spouse or significant other should not make it an easy way for you to avoid participating in the planning and care of your parent. It is important, however, that you listen to what is being said and that you come to a mutual decision in order to have peace in your home. The resistance may come from a mistaken assumption that your spouse or significant other will end up doing the work instead of you.
Ideally, your spouse or significant other will be supportive of your involvement with your parents and also offer to assist in whatever capacity they can, but don’t build expectations around that point. If you can have an open dialogue on the subject and at least garner their support for your efforts you will have sidestepped a major stumbling block in extended familial relations and shown an important level of love and respect. Flesh out the reasons for the resistance. Listen, be patient, collaborate, then decide.
Be sure to acknowledge the concerns voiced by your spouse or significant other. Allow them to speak their piece without judging or condemning them for having a less than enthusiastic attitude. Define your priorities, state your boundaries, and move forward with love and respect for all those in your life (aging parents, spouses, significant others, and children).
Remember that this is all about love and collaborative relationships so focus on the positive and act with your best intentions. Remaining focused, calm, loving, and caring will facilitate supportive discussions. A time may come when your spouse or significant other will face a similar situation. At that time they will need your wisdom and support in return.
DO YOU HAVE A STORY TO SHARE, A COMMENT, OR A QUESTION? I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU.
PLEASE SHARE WITH YOUR FRIENDS OR FAMILY MEMBERS WHO MAY BE FACING THE CHALLENGE OF CARING FOR AGING PARENTS.