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  • Writer's pictureLaurie Bell

Bridging that Perspectives Gap

Getting together with #family over the #Holidays was wonderful for some and for others more challenging… .  Sometimes one or more adult children won’t have seen Mom or Dad for a few months and one or more parents’ health, mobility and #cognitivedecline can feel like a huge elephant in the room.  

Broaching the subject of what comes next isn’t easy. Talking to our parents about aging and their evolving needs usually isn’t one of those conversations you want to initiate over a festive Holiday dinner.

Sensitively choosing a good time to broach the topic of change can be tough but it is helpful to look for a time when no one is likely to feel like they are being ambushed.  

As a wise friend once shared with me: “Helping a #parent to #move involves a lot more than booking a truck and ordering some boxes… .” While it is hard to talk to our parents about their evolving safety, mobility and relocation needs, it can be worse to take the path of least resistance and bury our heads in the sand. It’s important to find a way to get a conversation initiated, while your parents can make their perspectives, feelings and desires known.

Multiple Perspectives: Theirs & Ours

Our perspectives guide our outlook and our decisions.  This is true for your parents and it is true for you.

You Might See:

1.  People who forget things – creating a #safety concern,

2.  Too much distance between households – helping out regularly seems impossible,

3.  Stubborn #resistance or “shut down” when you suggest any possible change in the status quo.

Your Parents Might See:

1.  A little #forgetfulness – they realize that they’re not as “on top of things” as they once were. What if they admit it? What will happen then?

2.  Threat to lifestyle – fear of losing what they know and love. What can they expect? What if they are making the wrong decision? What if they can hang on for another year?

3.  Loss of #independence – this covers everything from the smallest decisions right through to where and how they will live.

A Sibling Might See:

1.  “Mom and Dad are fine.  You aren’t there every day or every week like I am.”  

2.   “Where do you get off coming in once or twice a year and telling everyone what to do? You don’t know everything.”

3.  “Mom has always loved you best… .”

How to Help?

This may be a challenging path, requiring lots of patience and empathy. Fortunately, you can explore some resources before a time of crisis. Remember that not everything will be accepted or workable in the moment, but later in the process you might cycle back to an earlier idea and it may seem more workable then.  Rome was not built in a day.

Four Things to Keep in Mind

1.   Maintain respect for your parent’s need for #autonomy throughout the process,

2.    Create opportunities to check things out – the unknown is scary; help to explore a few options.  Most people shy away from a big change and anxiety can develop a stronger grip with age,

3.   Maintain a long term perspective but communicate in the moment and stay fluid and adaptable.

4.   Identify how you can help from a distance.  Everyone has different strengths and different ways that they can contribute.  Sometimes it is #emotional, sometimes it’s financial and each of us has a specific expertise that they can bring to the table.

Tips to Get Started

1.  Identify the things in your parents life that make them smile – make these a priority focus,

2.  Identify the tasks that they don’t like to do or that they find overwhelming – agree to get help with those elements,

3.  Identify the safety issues, find a non-intrusive fix, and take steps to implement.  These can be small and relatively easy to install…like a different shower head or a bench system. Seeking their input #reassures your parents that they are still in charge of their life.

One key to maintaining your parents’ independence and to reduce your own anxiety is to get informed - before a health care crisis hits. With long term vision and “your patience on full” – keep your options open for bridging that “perspectives” gap. Assure your parent(s) and siblings that you always want to know what they want most as well a potential “Plan B” in case everything doesn’t go as hoped.  This will seem much less threatening than: “This is how it has to be – we just need to get it done”.  

Talking openly about our hopes and fears might be easier for us than for our aging parents but it can pay dividends.  When we acknowledge that we understand the other person’s perspective we build trust and yes, hope.  If something happens that moves things forward quickly you will know in your heart that you are all doing your best to achieve what Mom and/or Dad would want.

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