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Starting the Dialogue with your Aging Parents: Collaboration

June 9, 2014

“Hey Mom, we’re going to move you from the house to an assisted living facility. It’s just two blocks from my home and I’ll be able to visit you at least once a week. Doris and I decided this was the best way to keep you safe and it will be easier for us to manage your health care and other needs with you closer.”

That may sound like something you would hear in a bad movie script, but I’ve actually heard family members visiting an aging parent in the hospital make similar statements.

Any idea how the aging parent usually responds to such a statement? It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this kind of approach is only going to get the hackles raised and a streak of strong resistance and entrenched independence flaring.  Whether the scenario plays out in a hospital room or at home over a holiday dinner this is definitely not the approach to take when you want to help a loved one make a transition of any kind.

No where in the above quote is there any indication that the adult child cares how mom feels about moving from her home. There is also no questions of where she might like to live if it is imperative that she move from her home for safety reasons. In addition, it’s all about convenience for the adult child and no hint of ease for the parent.

Granted we don’t know the circumstances surrounding this particular case, but here are a few possibilities:

  • It may be that the home mom lives in is unsafe due to steep stairs and her frail status after her latest fall precludes her returning to that environment.
  • In addition, she may have used up all of her hospital and rehabilitation days that Medicare will pay for and she has to be discharged within a few days.
  • Further, the family may have never had a past discussion about  mom’s wishes if she ever needed a level of care that she couldn’t receive in her home.
  • Finally, no one in the family is willing or capable of caring for mom as she ages and needs monitoring, assistance and increasing care.

As we continue to have more people aging and living longer it is important to face the realities of what the future might hold. As I’ve advocated before in this blog, and basically the entire purpose for the blog, it is important to start the discussions about parental wishes while mom and dad are still healthy.

One very important factor is to get them thinking about alternatives before the need arises. This allows for financial planning, consultation with legal professionals and health care providers and most importantly an acceptance that circumstances might change as aging occurs.

Another reason to start the discussions early is so that family members can also plan for what might be expected of them. If there are multiple adult children in a family then future caregiving and assistance roles can be planned for as suited to individual geographical locations, financial abilities, time availability, and willingness.

Forcing someone to conform to plans they haven’t had a say in is not going to make any transition pleasant for the players. Please take this to heart and start talking with your aging parents about their future.

  • Listen to their desires.
  • Offer suggestions, but don’t dominate the conversation.
  • Be open minded and flexible.
  • Remain realistic about the financial impact.
  • Take time to think things over before making final decisions. This is planning, not implementing, if you have these conversations before a crisis occurs.
  • Most importantly, maintain a loving and gracious attitude. After all, this is your parent.

Thanks for reading my blog. Feel free to share your family experience in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.


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