This is a companion article to Asking For Help Keeps Seniors In Control.
Anna was looking forward to visiting her parents. Even though they kept in touch frequently by phone and video calls, it wasn’t the same as “being there.” She often asked how things were going and her folks always assured her they were “fine” and “staying busy”. Anna couldn’t believe it had already been a year since they were together in person, but she and her family would be enjoying their time with “Mom and Dad” soon.
Overall, they had a wonderful visit together but there were a few times Anna felt things weren’t quite as “fine” as her parents led her to believe. Dad complained about not being able to keep up with the yardwork like he once did. Mom needed Anna’s help on more than one occasion getting large serving pieces out of the cupboard because she was afraid to get on the step stool. Dad seemed tired all the time and even fell asleep sitting up at the dinner table one night. Mom admitted she has missed a few lunch dates with her friends lately because she just forgot.
While none of these were serious, Anna felt uneasy. Her parents were clearly aging and she wondered what the future might hold. It would be easy enough to hire a lawn service. She could show her mom how to set alarms for appointments, but what other kinds of help would they need sooner or later? Would they be able to stay in their home for years to come, or would they need to move? What if one of them had a fall or a serious medical diagnosis? What kind of help would they need and would they be able to afford it?
Like many adult children, Anna decided she wasn’t REALLY sure she wanted to know the answers to her questions. It might open a big “can of worms” and lead to more worry and work than she was willing to take on right now. So, she smiled real big when they said goodbye and prayed every day that nothing would happen to them.
Why do adult children avoid asking their parents about their plans for the future? Here are five common reasons:
- We aren’t close. Now isn’t a good time to try to mend a relationship.
- My parents are private. They won’t talk to me about things like that.
- I have my own life. I don’t want to open a “can of worms.”
- I can’t deal with the thought of my parents aging/declining/dying.
- I’m not good with decision making
THE ONE REASON YOU SHOULD DO IT ANYWAY
As an adult child, the responsibility will be put on you…eventually.
Even if your parents are in good health physically, emotionally and financially, the conversation needs to happen. Circumstances can change in the blink of an eye. It is in your best interest to find out your parents plans before a crisis happens. If they have no idea what they will do, encourage them to let you start helping them make some decisions.
You might be saying to yourself, “That’s hard! I don’t want to get into that discussion!” Which is harder:
Talking about a vision of the future?
Finding yourself making decisions for a parent who is unable to decide for themselves?
Having a conversation about finances?
Paying thousands of dollars a month out of your pocket for medical care for a parent?
Asking your parents about their current health and their future medical outlook?
Spending hours a day while juggling work and family helping one aging parent care for the other?
If you avoid these conversations, the adult children (YOU) be tasked with holding things together. Your parents may be emotional, tired or unable to communicate. If you haven’t had these conversations, you won’t have clear direction about what to do, what they want or how to even start discovering the kinds of services they will need. The stress level for you and your loved one will go through the roof.
Making a plan doesn’t mean you’ll need it. In these situations, we hope we never have to use it; however, with the population living longer some type of care will be needed at some point, even if it is only needed for a short time.
By keeping the lines of communication open, the plan can be changed as circumstances change. Everyone involved feels more confident and comfortable because they know what their role is and have a shared vision of the desired outcomes.
John Maxwell says, “You are either preparing or repairing.” Make sure you prepare so that you aren’t left picking up the pieces when the unexpected happens.