Helping Elderly Parents: Planning for “The Talk”
It usually starts with a phone call. A neighbor or friend of your parent calls to tell you they think something is wrong. There are different symptoms they often report. Not coming outside. Not answering the door. Not knowing what day it is. That they had a forgotten appointment and the neighbor or friend was supposed to help them. There are lots of others. It’s a reminder that helping elderly parents can create a host of challenges, for them and you.
If you’re working, or have kids at home, or both, then you have to drop things and turn your attention to find out what’s going on and what you can or need to do. If you have siblings, maybe you call them to report this situation. Then you decide who intervenes. If you’re an only child, it may be solely up to you.
Like avoiding talking about one’s mortality, parents frequently refuse to talk about their finances, their failing memory or lack of mobility. It’s often called “denial.” We all exhibit this denial behavior to some degree. Seniors have it more blatantly.
What to do? First, you have to have “The Talk.” Try to avoid making it an “intervention.” Pick a calm, warm, cozy environment like the den, or outside the home like a cozy coffee shop with a quiet corner. What’s next?
- Ask them how they feel things are going in their life?
- What help would they like you to render and at what point in time?
- What have they seen others do in their situation?
- What do they feel should be the first step(s) in getting organized?
- Agree on the next steps
- Go do something fun or interesting that you’ve already agreed upon
In preparing for “The Talk” there are lots of articles and books on the topic of helping elderly parents. A search online or at the library will provide you with much information and reassurance you’re not alone.
In my own personal experience, we were lucky to have close and caring siblings to visit and tend to our parents before they both had to move into skilled nursing and memory care facilities. They seemed to take comfort we were there for them.
We had an experienced attorney and tax preparer who provided assistance and tools in advance of their declining health and mental ability. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience, but it was valuable for me to experience helping them so that I was prepared to assist others in planning for elder care.