Sooner or Later It’s Going To Be Your Turn…

And here’s what’s going to happen:

1. You’re going to realize you don’t have a clue about what’s really going on with your aging parents when all your good advice falls on deaf ears or is flat out rejected.

Comment: Instead of getting angry and judgmental, get humble and curious about what you don’t know or understand. There’s a secret agenda at play here with your your aging parents that is impacting everything. Learning about it will give you new insights to their real needs and offer you new communication skills that will reduce conflict and enhance partnership.

2. You and your siblings are going to wind up having a major melt down or money, control and division of labor.

Comment: Instead of trying to change them, change the game. Confrontations with your siblings accomplishes nothing. Accept their self-imposed limitations and and move on to Plan B: your own support team. Find people outside of your family who are knowledgeable, experienced and committed to caregiving and let your siblings be who they need to be.

3. Your parents are going to strenuously reject any attempt to bring outside help into their home despite their growing inability to take care of each other.

Comment: Instead of challenging spousal loyalty and dedication, declare your support for your parent’s decision but frame it as having the potential to undermine independence. At some point, without outside help, things will get so far out of control, they will be forced to move. Use examples of parallel situations with other aging parents to point out how things could get out of control. In the meantime, start organizing in-home care resources who could lend a hand when the time is right.

4. Your father is going to refuse to stop driving at night despite having poor night vision due to cataracts in both eyes.

Comment: Instead of appealing to reason or dire consequences, mobilize your father’s primary care physician to be the “change agent” for this high risk situation. He or she represents the voice of “official concern” that has the power to intervene before its too late.

5. Your mother is going to minimize the threat of a disastrous fall by not using the walker the doctor prescribed.

Comment: Instead of exhaustive power struggles over why she should use the walker, come around to your mother’s side of the table and agree with her choice as long as she understands that it is an all or nothing control gamble. One bad fall and a nursing home would be her next stop. However, there are other choices that would offer her better odds of preserving her much loved independence in her home for a longer period. The issue is sustained control. Either way, you will support whichever choice she ultimately elects.

6. Your parents are going to keep secrets about they manage their assets until poor returns force them to disclose their situation.

Comment: Instead of berating your parents for secrecy and poor financial choices, use the painful disclosure to engage an experienced financial advisor to assess and recommend how to rebalance their assets for optimal sustainability and how this new calculation impacts their standard of living. While you can’t go back and repair the damage, you can show how collaboration and transparency can help them plan to prevent it from happening again.

7. Your parents are going to dismiss dangerous safety issues in their home as “no big deal.”

Comment: Instead of pushing back with dire stories of disability and death, frame safety issues in their home as areas that have slipped out of control and are poised to steal their independence without warning. The easiest way to prevent an unwanted “loss of control ambush” is to eliminate the risk.

8. Your parents are going to dismiss memory and cognition issues as a normal part of aging.

Comment: Instead of making them feel ashamed for their denial of obvious deficits in their memory and cognition, remind them how these changes impact control. The good news is that adjustments can be made to preserve control and independence with changes in memory or cognition but they require a collaborative game plan. Better to accept the modifications to lifestyle to address these changes than to deny them and suffer a major setback in quality of life.

9. You’re parents are going to struggle with the decision to move out of their the home and into an assisted living facility.

Comment: Instead of repeating the benefits of downsizing and moving into an assisted living community, better to start by acknowledging their anxiety and apprehension about this monumental transition. Being fearful of this type change in life is normal. The good news is the degree of independence and control they will retain in their new environment. This is the goal of the move. To help your aging parents preserve the highest level of independence and control possible as they age.

10. You’re parents are going to struggle with a series of “last time experiences” that come with the final phase of life.

Comment: Instead of diverting conversation about things that are gone for good, treat “last time experiences” with the dignity and importance they represent. The last dance they ever attended, the last time they were able to go to the cabin and the last time they ever saw their best friends are all moments both hard to bear and hard to relinquish. Allow the transcendence of these moments to have their rightful place as part of an aging parent’s life review.

on August 2, 2017
I wish my parent’s doctors would read this book! Everyone who deals with those over 70 should read it. We teach early childhood education, but why is there no education in how to deal with those in the last part of their lives, so they feel respected. This guy is great.

4 responses to “Sooner or Later It’s Going To Be Your Turn…

  1. David,
    My mom began exhibiting signs of early stage dementia about 14 years ago. She had a falling accident that accelerated the condition and shortly there after she went into assisted living. Just a couple of years ago, she went into skilled care.
    Your blog “Sooner or later it will be your turn…..” is filled with wisdom and ideas that I haven’t had in the past 14 years.
    There are situations in my family and life that could be much different and better had I had that information then.
    Thank you,

  2. Jerry,

    Thank you for the kind feedback. What motivated my interest in the psychology of the second half of life was my dismal performance in partnering with my mother after my father died in 1989. It seemed so obvious and easy. That was not the case.

    The good new is that my failure at being the dutiful son led to my work in identifying the “secret” developmental agenda of the last phase of life, control and legacy, which are also represented as “lasting and leaving.” Simply knowing the importance of these two tasks has changed everything.

    I also learned only too well that the last phase of life is a messy process filled with false starts, regrets and plans that don’t work out. Thankfully, it is also filled with courage, resilience and a love that preserves the sweet of bitter-sweet. And in our hearts we know that we did the best we could based on who we are and what we had to work with…

    Best regards,

    David Solie

  3. David, you were so spot on. My in-laws are 85 & 87. Mom has suffered great weight loss and muscular atrophy in her legs and cannot stand for any period of time. Ironically it is why she can only go to the kitchen and grab quick food like crackers. She is not taking in any vitamins, protein, or proper nutrients. She also got lost coming to our house last week, a 13 mile trip she has made for 24 years. Believe it or not she is the SOLE caretaker of her obese husband who is legally blind and requires a cane to walk and yes, they have 3 flights of stairs to get to their car. They will not listen to me or their siblings about a home health assessment, moving to single floor living, or in-home health aids. So for us it’s either conservatorship or wait for the shoe to drop. It will probably be the latter.

  4. Joe, I have seen my fair share of conservatorships and none of them, in my opinion, have ended well for either generation. There is a deep sense of betrayal that aging parents take to the grave over this assault on their independence no matter how illogical or dangerous the situation was that prompted the petition.

    Most adult children in your situation wind up waiting for something to happen to force the issue with their aging parents. A fall, stroke or heart attack make going it alone impossible and the game radically changes.

    This betting the “aging in place” farm on an all of nothing choice of no help under any circumstances is an expression of the profound need for control being carried to it’s self-canceling extreme. Yes, they get to defend their Alamo on their own terms, but a more moderate version of exerting control that allowed for some version of outside help would most likely offer them a longer window of independence.

    Of course, this is an outsider’s view of their world. I’m sure when we get our turn at being the oldest member of the family with diminished health and the wolves of dependency howling at our door, we will trade the cool logic of practicality for yet another day of some version of illogical independence knowing full well, like everything in life, it can’t last forever…

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