I wrote the draft of this post on Thanksgiving weekend but my thoughts apply to any occasion that is typically shared with family. Christmas and all of the High Holidays in the Jewish faith often generate similar sentiments. How are Mom and/or Dad really doing? In fairness, Mom did seem to be doing a little better today but will she collapse in exhaustion after the festivities are over? Worse will she fall on all of those stairs at the front of her house, slick with leaves and dampness from the rain?
Dad has clearly been benefitting from his new Personal Support Worker’s presence. He is eating better and he now has reminders in place for his meds but really, should he still be living on his own? Is he truly doing okay now that Mom is no longer with us?
Mobility issues, neurological challenges, cancer, macular degeneration, and mild dementia, just to name a few, can transform family members’ mild concerns into full blown worry for their parents’ safety and wellbeing. After all, their aging parents are now in their eighties and lately, they just don’t seem to be doing as well…
No one wants to overstep boundaries and siblings may not agree on what course of action is best. Some people feel unable to confront the reality of their parents’ mortality and, by extension, their own. They may prefer to let things take their own course rather than risk confrontation. Or they may find it easier to fight for what they believe that they would want themselves instead of actively listening to their parents’ hopes, fears and desires.
Values vary among family members. Some people are so sentimental that they can’t bear the thought of Dad getting rid of their old school trophies, those ones in the box in the furnace room. Mind you, he doesn’t have room for them himself but they must be important to Dad or he wouldn’t have kept them all these years…
Then there is the family member who is herself a minimalist. She looks around her when she visits in what can only be described as abject horror. She can’t understand why Mom ever bought all those serving trays in the first place and truly, she would call in a dumpster at the slightest provocation…
And then there is another who simply wants Mom and/or Dad to simply be happy. She doesn’t particularly care for many of the items themselves but she understands that some of them may be important to her parents.
Before you begin to nod that yes, this sounds like your family, don’t forget to include the family member who believes that all of this stuff probably has some real monetary value. When pressed, she will acknowledge that antiques are not in fashion right now but they are bound to come back, right?
To all of these folks, I have one suggestion. Don’t wait until there is a crisis. Admittedly, bringing these topics up at a festive family dinner table may not be the best timing but it just might give you a chance to set up another time to talk about things as a family.
First, what does Mom actually want? Is she willing to consider other living options? Can she consider a “Plan B”? It can be difficult for her to imagine life in a different home but she may have a friend or a bridge partner who have transitioned to a condo or to a retirement residence. Not having to think about grocery shopping or preparing meals might be just the incentive to go and take a look just in case she isn’t able to live on her own later on…
Having preliminary discussions can be invaluable if there is a health crisis down the road. Older adults want to be able to make their own decisions and if they are not able to communicate those wishes it can help to at least know their preferences.
If your parents are open to the idea of moving to a condo or a retirement suite, it can also help to bring in an objective and sensitive Senior Move Manager. She can begin the process by working in brief sessions so that they get to keep what they want and a plan is in place for what to do with what’s left over.
While your aging parents’ sense of autonomy is protected, practicality ensures a seamless transition whenever the time is right. Packing is typically done in one day and our unpacking and set-up leaves your parents free to settle in immediately… Oh and did I mention that this particular Senior Move Manager has experience in crisis intervention, mental health support and dispute resolution? It all helps!
If you believe that your contacts may find this helpful, please share and visit us at www.movingseniorswithasmile.ca