Parenting Parents, Bad Idea

It is well known that many grand and great grandparents do not share intimate details of their health with their children; they do not want to burden or have their children worry. Doing in-home consultations has taught me some very important lessons. One of the biggest lessons that I learned was that parents do not want to be parented by their children. When the children demand that their parents get some help around the house, most parents revolt. On the other hand, it is quite entertaining to watch the 50+ year old kids trying to reason with their teen age acting 80-year-old parents. Just for the record, the parents almost always win.  In most of these scenarios, the parents do need some support, it’s just that the children took the wrong approach.

Generally no one gets emotionally involved when parents slow down and help is needed to maintain the exterior of the home. It’s hot and the work is hard therefore hiring a pool service or lawn maintenance company resolves the issue without much discussion. However, when the needs involve getting some help for inside the home, this might provoke a very emotional response. Often when children discuss the issue of parents having help to remaining independent inside of their homes, it sounds suspiciously to the parents like they are going to lose or give up some part of their independence. This is true even though laundry, vacuuming, changing bed linens, meal preparation and sometimes personal care, can be very demanding tasks equal to those worked outside. I believe the difference is “privacy.” Letting someone into your home to touch your personal belongings creates anxiety whereas someone cutting the grass not so much. For this reason, discussing the quality of the anticipated care provider in terms of reputation, insurance, bonding, and background checks is important.

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Too often the subject of preparing for the senior years is not discussed; instead, it is thrown at the parents during “The Conversation.” To avoid a confrontational situation, make sure the rest of the family is on board before meeting with your parents. Chose a time and place so you can have a relaxed conversation about quality of life and safety and your parents can share their wishes. This is best accomplished in a series of meetings rather than presenting an ultimatum at the end of a meeting. Avoid any part of “The Conversation” at holiday or special family occasions. It may be convenient because the family is together and the parents are in a good mood but, it could turn ugly.

Make the experience non-threatening by letting your parents know you’re concerned for their well-being and want to know how you or someone else can help make their life easier. Sharing the experiences of friends or relatives encountering medical emergencies could serve as an opening for dialogue. Speak with respect. Respect their desire and need to maintain control over their lives.  Avoid reversing roles during the discussions. It’s best to think of it as partnering with them to develop a plan. Ask open-ended questions that encourage your parents to share their feelings. Offer options, that is, more than one acceptable solution; not advice. Involving parents in the decision-making process enables them to exercise control and maintain their independence. Children can learn what is important to them by sitting back and listening and then, listening some more. Then, once parents have expressed their wishes, help them write down their plans to ensure they are carried out. The discussions become clearer as the plans are written. If your parents resist your efforts, try to involve a trusted third party such as a friend, doctor or clergy. They may be more open to the discussion with a neutral individual.

Parents can initiate the conversation. They do not have to wait for the children to start the conversation. Many children don’t like thinking about their parents aging and are reluctant to start the discussion. So, if you are having difficulty with maintaining your home, driving, preparing meals, or maintaining personal care, start the conversation with your children, your doctor or other health care professional. Share your preferences with family. Do you want to continue living at home with the help of a caregiver who can assist with certain tasks around the house? Are you looking to downsize and move in with family or move to an independent or assisted living arrangement?

No matter if you are the parent or children expressing concern about health, homecare and safety, these conversations must be respectful and loving, and remember always that communication is key. Remember your parents are your parents from your birth until they die and they want respect from their children regardless of their age. The goal is to ensure that your parents will have their needs met and live a safe, happy life.

At Comfort Keepers® in Inverness, Florida, nothing is more important than helping seniors live full, independent and dignified lives withi…

Gailen Spinka has been working with our senior population since purchasing a Comfort Keepers Franchise in 2004. Most opinions are garnered from interactions with clients and their families. Should you like more discussion on the topic please call Gailen at Comfort Keepers 352- 726-4547.

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