I am often asked by families how to broach the subject of care with their loved ones. Since it is that time of year again where families are together after, perhaps, not seeing each other for an extended period of time, I thought this would be a good question to address this month.
I get calls this time of year usually from adult children who haven’t seen mom or dad in a while. They are calling because they were surprised if not downright shocked at their parent’s condition. “Things seemed fine when we talked on the phone but when I spent time with them…”
Being around parents also allows one sometimes to see how spouses are “covering” for each other. Maybe one spouse is beginning to experience dementia, and the other is facing physical challenges. You talk to them on the phone weekly, and everything seems OK, maybe a bit odd but OK nonetheless. Then you actually are with them for the holidays, and you notice one of your parents is asking the same question repeatedly and the other is much more mobility challenged than you had realized. On the phone, you don’t see the physical limitations, and in short conversation, you might not have a chance to experience the repetition.
The adult children often come to a sudden realization that things are not OK with their parents and they ask me how to have the conversation about what the best next steps should be. But here’s the challenge – mom and dad usually don’t think they need any help at all. It starts with “you know how forgetful your father is” and often progresses fairly rapidly to downright defensiveness on the part of the elderly parents.
The conversation is hard to have, but we all will likely face it at one time or another, either as the adult child or as the parent. I really want to encourage the parents whose children have approached them with concerns to be open to listening. Your children are not trying to take over your life. They are concerned for your safety. You should be willing to listen to your children if for no other reason than their peace of mind.
If your children are willing to have that incredibly awkward conversation about your well-being, shouldn’t you be at least willing to listen? Likewise, your children should be willing to hear your thoughts. Maybe your children want you to consider alternative living arrangements, like an independent or assisted living facility.
Be open in telling your loved ones how you feel about that and the reasons why. Don’t just shut down the conversation by refusing to talk. Maybe there is a compromise that can be reached.
How well do you know the neighbors? Would Everyone involved by comfortable with a neighbor kind of keeping an eye on things and calling the adult children if something seems amiss? How about more frequent phone calls or, better yet, video chats with Facetime or something similar? “Eyes on” often reveals issues that would have remained hidden through the typical phone call.
The best advice I can give about having “the conversation” is just to do it. Don’t put it off – the health and well-being of the people most important in the world to you could be at risk. Be willing to listen. Sometimes it takes several conversations to find a resolution to these issues. Putting off the first of those conversations only delays that resolution.
Tim Golden is the owner of BrightStar Care, Lawrenceville. You can reach Tim at (404)281-1537 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information please visit http://www.brightstarcare.com/lawrenceville/
PO Box 634
Lawrenceville, GA 30046