Dealing with the 500-pound gorilla in your aging parents’ home

The relationship between an adult child and her aging parents can best be described by the word “denial.”  We ask the right questions – are they safe, are they taking their meds – but we often don’t dwell too much and we take them at their word.  Because, if we really looked at them and saw how they are aging, it would require us to acknowledge that we ourselves are getting old and we have become the caretaker.

From their perspective, our parents really don’t want to discuss with us what’s going on with them or their spouse.  First, they don’t want to burden us.  They think we have enough on our minds as it is (they’re right.)  But they also don’t want to be told what to do or to admit that their spouse might be in worse condition then you realize.    They’ll deny as long as possible that they need help.

This relationship is the epitome of “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell.”  Neither side wants to bring up the tough questions that must be asked.  Unfortunately, all too often, financial and legal issues such as power of attorney, end of life decisions, estate planning are not discussed.  It’s heavy stuff and certainly not a fun conversation but far better to discuss these things with your parents when they are capable of making decisions rather than being forced to guess what they really wanted.

Seniors also become so comfortable in their own home that they refuse to see the dangers that exist as well.  The carpet that has some holes or the step that’s broken present serious safety hazards.  One fall could mean the loss of their independence yet they can be stubborn as heck about allowing someone to come in and make repairs.  Their rationale is that they’ve never fallen before, why should they worry now?  It’s pretty much the same as a teen saying why should he worry about getting in a car crash while texting as it’s never happened before.

Bringing up these subjects with your aging parents is never easy and sometimes requires a third party mediator such as their clergy member, a geriatric social worker or a trusted friend.   As the CEO of Safety Mom Senior Solutions, I work with adult children to understand the safety risks their parents face and how we can help modify their home to allow them to “age in place.”   My team listens to seniors and understands their objections and concerns.  We review emergency plans, conducts safety assessments and install products such as grab bars, wheel chair ramps, stair rails and automatic lighting.

Having these conversations with your parents might not be easy but helping them stay safe and having a plan is key to avoiding future problems.

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