When roles begin to reverse between parents and children, there’s bound to be friction. Parents who’ve always been independent resist the intervention of their kids. Whether it’s control, not wishing to be a burden, or a combination, the need to involve one’s children is generally uncomfortable. It’s natural for children to back down, respecting long-established familial roles. But I’ve learned some tricks you may find useful in dealing with the transition.
Desired change: hired help in your parent’s home.
Parental response: “I don’t need a babysitter.”
Adult child strategy 1: Make it about YOUR needs, not theirs. “Of course you don’t need a babysitter. But I would feel better knowing you had a little extra help around the house. I worry about you. If I know someone is coming in to help you, I’LL FEEL BETTER. Please, do it for ME.”
Adult child strategy 2: Make it about EXTENDING THEIR INDEPENDENCE. “By having someone come in to help, you can continue to live in YOUR HOME instead of a FACILITY. I know you love your place, and this way, you can stay where you’re comfortable longer.”
Desired change: taking away the car keys.
Parental response: “I’ve been driving for 60 years. Who the hell are you to tell me I can’t drive?”
Adult child strategy: This is a terrible thing to have to address, but there comes a time when you know your parent is a danger behind the wheel. Hurting themselves is bad enough. Potentially hurting others is a catastrophe waiting to happen. So once you’ve inquired about umbrella policies for yourself and your folks,* take the keys away from them and sell their car. Give it away to charity if you have to. And if driving them around does not fit your schedule, look for a hired caregiver who can drive them where they need to go. Taxis are another viable option. And if you have to, get the local police involved to revoke their license. This is really hard and painful, but knowing the danger and allowing your parent to possibly kill or maim others is far worse.
Desired change: the move to a facility.
Parental response: “You are NOT going to warehouse ME.”
Adult child strategy: Do your homework. Start looking at places BY YOURSELF before you introduce the idea to your parent. Put yourself in their position. How would YOU like living there? Use checklists of considerations to evaluate facilities objectively. Have a meal or two to see how the food is. Talk to residents and family members. Consider how often you would be able to visit. No matter how great the place is, care will be better when staff knows family may pop in at any time. When you think you’ve found a good fit, invite your parent to visit. Realize that they’re going to push back until they’re ready. Concentrate on the future and setting positive expectations for the transition. When I brought my mom to one place, we chatted with a community relations person, and I told her that what mother wanted was for me to build a machine that would send her back in time 15 years. Mom looked at me in awe. “You’re right! That IS what I want.” That conversation opened the door for a discussion of an achievable future and how we might look ahead to an exciting new chapter rather than dwelling on sadness and loss.
Realize that this is a PROCESS. Change is not easy for anyone, and you need to take control of what you can control: the way YOU respond. When you are stepping up, you are doing something noble and valuable. But don’t expect gratitude, especially in the beginning. There will be denial, resentment, confusion and anger. Paranoia, distrust and misunderstandings are usually part of the package as well. People who were once rational and loving can become delusional and hateful. There’s no way to prepare for the emotional impact of these changes. But as you confront your own family transition, do reach out. Seek support, ask for help, talk to professionals. And DON’T WAIT. Procrastination is human, but it will bite you. Time marches on, and it’s much easier to prepare while everyone is still relatively healthy. Keep that strategy in the forefront of your mind and be ready with the others should the need one day arise.
*Talk to a professional about this kind of liability insurance. You don’t want to have to face a law suit without some kind of protection in place. To begin addressing you concerns, finding the right professionals can take some of the stress out of the equation. Contact Grand Family Planning today!
As our parents become less able, we need to become creative in finding ways to help them. The first response to any kind of enabling technology is usually flat-out rejection. “I don’t need that!” “I’m not that sick!” “I’m not that old!” “What will other people think?” “I can’t afford that!”
This is completely natural. Most people hate change (except for babies, who cry out for it). So many potentially helpful devices frighten people; they’re afraid of developing “a dependency.” And no one wants to be thought of as “old.” There are strategies for dealing with these fears you may find effective.
Cite Meaningful Examples
I knew a woman who was strong and highly independent well into her eighties. A widow for years, she lived on her own with an adult son who had some developmental issues of his own. She had able children with families and grandchildren, a wonderful…
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