You might be in the “Sandwich Generation.” You might have “Boomerang Kids” moving back in. You might be at odds with a sibling (or two) about what to do about your aging mom and her house now that your dad has passed away. Your elderly parents might be increasingly difficult to deal with – or, you might be in all of these positions. Oh yeah, and you have a job, your kids’ soccer practice, and a spouse to juggle along with all the rest! Let’s take a look at one thing at a time, because if you try to look at all the pieces of your life at once you might get so overwhelmed you drop all of the balls (just like any juggler would)! First let’s break it down and look at your aging parents.
Those of you in the Baby Boomer Generation (born roughly 1946-1964) probably expected to help your children through college, and many of you actually made a financial plan of some sort to make sure you could help them out. However, how many of you Boomers planned on being the crutch your aging parents leaned on at this stage of the game? Well, here’s a news flash – Most seniors never imagined that they might need assistance (financially or otherwise) from their children, either! Imagine their embarrassment when they realize they need help of any kind from their busy, overworked children. Sometimes, this role reversal can cause misunderstandings, misperceptions, and miscommunication between aging parents and their adult children, and/or you and your sibs. Let’s start with a few very basic tips on dealing with your aging parents.
Make a plan. Preparation is everything, and you should prepare yourself and your family for how you want to deal with a variety of health and financial situations that your elderly parents may find themselves in at some point. If you wait until a crisis occurs, you will likely find that Conflict and Resistance will raise their ugly heads. Try to get your kids involved in the planning, and of course, your spouse. Talk to your parents and siblings about possibilities and options, and make sure you are all on the same page – it will make it so much easier on everyone later on. If you are at odds with each other, find a mediator specifically trained in Elder Mediation in your area (801-624-9555 for Milestone Mediation in Utah), or the area where your parents live, so that healthy communication can be facilitated between all family members.
Respect your parents position. No one is comfortable with change, especially if it is forced upon us, and this is especially true with seniors. Try to look at their concerns from their perspective, and make sure they feel like they still have some control over their lives.
Let them be as independent as possible, for as long as possible. Their safety, however, should be your highest priority. Even if they object, don’t be afraid to arrange assistance for them, even if you have to decrease their independence.
Remember that your agenda is not necessarily theirs. You are in a “get-r-done” and move forward stage of life. Your aging parents have already “been there done that” and are now in a stage of weighing the life they’ve lived as well as making final choices about their remaining years. In this stage of life, the elderly are looking for “organic legacy,” (the significance of their life experience and what they’ll leave behind), which is a multistep process, and is more complicated than we can know because we have not been through that stage – yet. They need time to process things now, and you need to give it to them – don’t try to rush them, and try to spend time with them when you are not rushed. Their developmental stage (yes, the elderly are still in a period of growth!) is different than yours.
Lastly (for today!), PLEASE have those important (& often difficult) conversations regarding advanced directives – not just medical and legal, but personal, emotional, and spiritual directives. This will ultimately bring them piece of mind (and peace of spirit) as their life journey turns that last corner. Also, you and your family will not have to guess at what they really want if they are beyond communicating with you.
Want some tips and conversation starters for these crucial conversations? Our newsletter for September will be addressing just that – subscribe now!