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Difficult Conversations – Part 1

One of the hardest conversations with Mom & Dad: Where to start?

Part I

As children, our parents worked hard and sacrificed for our well-being and livelihood. We were certain that one day it would be our turn to take care of them and sacrifice for them to live comfortably in their later years. But hold up…this is real life. We are already overworked, often underpaid and are sacrificing for our own children now. We love our parents and want the best for them but also recognize that we, personally, may be unable to give them the time and attention they deserve.

Thankfully, there are assisted living facilities that provide both independence and assistance to our parents in areas where we may lack the means or resources such as such as cooking or transportation. If necessary, there are also nursing home options. Yet, actually talking about a transition like this can be quite daunting. As a son or daughter, we are thinking about our parents’ well-being although they perceive we are taking away their independence. Unfortunately, their independence is often something that at their age won’t return.

We just cannot simply ‘put our foot down’ and make the decision for them. We need to have a conversation with our parent(s) and do so in a respectful way. It should result in a conclusion that everyone can agree on. It’s important to have a clear idea of why you want to have this conversation as it will help you to describe and clarify your ideas throughout the conversation you have with your parent(s).

Here are 3 tips to help navigate this tricky topic:

Start the conversation early, allow time
The first conversation should take place before an incident occurs. It can be difficult because it can leave your parent to assume you feel there is something wrong, even though nothing has happened. Laying the groundwork for a conversation about assisted living, or any other option, will make it easier to return to the conversation if and when the time comes. If an incident does happen and you have yet to talk to your parent, then that is okay too but it may be harder for them to accept that the incident is a catalyst for such an extreme change in lifestyle. Probably most important thing to remember is that this is not one conversation but a series of conversations and to certainly expect it to be revisited multiple times until a decision is made.

Use the 70-40 rule when in doubt
A good guideline for when this conversation should take place is the 70-40 rule. This is when a parent is 70+ years old and a son/daughter is 40+ years old. At this time, there needs to be a conversation about what to do when certain scenarios take place, such as a fall or forgetting to turn off a burner. But really, we know our parent better than an age rule and plus we have to keep in mind people are now living longer and growing more independent as they age. When in doubt, this is an excellent timing guideline to follow when you need to have a conversation with your parent about changes in lifestyle.

Be a Partner, and keep your calm
Remember that you aren’t taking over the role as the parent. You, in this conversation, are their partner. This is critical because this will make the conversation easier. The goal should be an actual conversation, a back and forth between people that care for each other and want the best for each other. Also, remember to avoid any blame and frustration that you might be feeling toward your parent(s). If you have been doing a lot for your parent(s), whether it is driving them to doctor appointments or helping with groceries, you want to avoid bringing up that you are overworked and tired of helping them. They were probably overworked and tired when they were raising us and it may be misunderstood as a lack of respect or compassion on our part. Finally, remember to be supportive and ultimately, respect their thoughts and opinions.

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