By Deborah Schwartz, LCSW-C
Recently, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh surrendered his driver’s license at the age of 97. After pleas from his wife, the Queen of England, his son, Prince Charles, and, unfortunately, an automobile accident, he acquiesced. Prince Charles commented that he had worried about his father’s driving for some time but was not able to get him to stop.
You don’t have to be royalty to understand a common person’s dilemma.
Here are some situations that families face every day:
*Your mother insists on taking care of her own finances. Yet when you visit, you see unpaid bills and turn off notices on her desk.
*Your father assures you that he is taking his medication, but you keep finding empty pill bottles that have not been refilled.
*Unexplained nicks and dents start appearing on your mother’s car. She forgets where she parked, and she’s getting lost more easily, even in familiar areas.
* Your parents say they don’t need help with meal preparation, yet, they are losing weight, forgetting to eat and often eating unhealthy foods.
Adult children tend to put off asking questions or having “the talk” because it is uncomfortable or because they are afraid of being disrespectful, intruding on parent’s privacy or taking away their feeling of independence.
Home Instead Senior Care reports that one-third of all Baby Boomers speak daily to their parents, yet very few discuss personal issues such as health, finances, or driving privileges. Most children are trying to keep the peace and avoid an argument even though they fear for their parents’ safety and wellbeing. If you find yourself in this situation, you are not alone. Talking with your aging loved ones can be challenging, but these tips can be helpful.
- Don’t put it off. Ideally, these conversations should take place when parents are still active and independent, before a stroke, fall or dementia leave you scrambling to make housing or medical decisions.
- Be Patient. Don’t set yourself up with the expectation that everything can be resolved in one sitting. Schedule further talks. You will probably have to bring up concerns to your parents several times.
- Enlist Support. Don’t feel you must go it alone. Many older adults are reluctant to listen or believe something unless the explanation comes from a professional. Some families feel comfortable talking with their rabbi. Others may seek advice and help from experts such as physicians or social workers, to help sort out the options.
- Be Empathetic. Try to step into your parent’s shoes. When talking with older adults, it is critical to understand how loss begins to define so much of their world: loss of health, home, friends, mobility, and control. If we acknowledge and let them talk about these losses, it often gives us opportunities to talk about alternatives that help them keep what control they have left.
Remember not to be too hard on yourself. As the saying goes, a mother can take care of 10 kids, but sometimes 10 kids can’t take care of one mother. While there are no easy answers, remember that you’re having this conversation because you care about your loved ones.
Deborah Schwartz is a therapist for JCS.
JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.