Somewhere along the aging timeline, “The Conversation” should take place: A heartfelt chat, discussion or exploration of the question of how Mom and/or Dad will be able to live well when they can’t take care of themselves in their home.
Either parent might resist the conversation—it raises difficult realities that will certainly come to pass. But in many families the question may actually sound more like “Who’s going to start this conversation?” Trickier than it seems, because complex emotions may create a large barrier to the simple matter of starting to talk!
In my experience, it doesn’t matter who starts the conversation as much as how its character is framed. These few thoughts:
• This set of questions—about in-home care, assisted living, moving in with children—is part of a broader reality: How well can our whole family prepare our parent(s) for end-of-life matters?
• Related items include talking about death itself; preparation of a will; evaluating finances; designating powers-of-attorney for medical and financial matters; deciding about cremation or burial and preparing the outline for a memorial service or funeral.
• When Mom and/or Dad start working on any of these items, other subjects can more easily follow as legitimate matters for planning.
• Starting earlier in life—mid-50’s, when emotions about these things are relatively low—seems to be a key factor in navigating these matters well.
• A key motivator for aging parents to begin the conversation is simple: They love their children, and don’t want their later years to be a difficult problem for their family.
• Either parent can initiate these conversations by identifying their own behavioral triggers or other events that they agree will begin a focused process of mutual decision-making.
You can see my prejudice here: Mom and Dad, this is your sacred responsibility.
Start on it now!