Just do it – Having the talk with your parents about their wishes during aging

Hopefully, many of you still have your parents living. One of the biggest gifts you can give them is to make sure you will be able to take care of them in the event they can’t take care of themselves. This can be a very hard thing to do.

Most people do not want to face the fact that we all do not live forever. Aging is something we all do but when it is our parents it is especially hard to face. They are supposed to live forever, right? Each family is different so you might be able to skip over a lot of this. Or you may have to add many steps. You just have to tailor this to your situation.

Let me share with you why I feel this is an important one, even though my parents are both gone. I have a friend who is going through a hard time as her parent has consistently refused to let her do anything that might help with this. She has tried over the years and now that her parent is having problems, she is powerless to help without getting the legal system involved. Although she does not want to have to do this, she has to for the safety of her parent.

Her parent will not tell her any financial information – “I have taken care of myself all these years and I do not need you to tell me what to do” but her taxes are not being paid on her home. She has no control over her parent’s medical care and needs it badly as her parent is obviously not taking her medication. Her parent will not let her even take her shopping for groceries.

Naturally, this is causing a lot of stress. What is actually concern on her part is being seen as a control issue by the parent. This could be dementia setting in but watching a love one go downhill with no way to step in and help is devastating when it could be avoided.

My mother was one of the people who wanted to make sure that things were taken care of. She also is the one who use to tell me to “get off your duff and do it”. Keep in mind that even though you try to do this, it may not work. But, you will feel better for having tried.

  1. Figure out why you are avoiding it.
    1. I can think of several reasons. First you may not want to accept that you need to do this. After all, we all want our parents to live forever.
    2. You do not want to hurt your parents. This is valid but it might hurt worse to see your parents in a situation where you cannot step in to help.
    3. Your siblings may think you are sticking your nose in where it doesn’t belong.
    4. You don’t know where to start.
  2. Break it into small steps.
    1. Accept that this has to happen. I could tell you horror stories of families that do not do this and then their parent’s wishes were not followed.
    2. Think of the way to approach it. If you have a plan, it will be much easier and helpful than just blurting it out one day.
    3. Do some research for your state as to the legal steps needed. This can be as simple as going onto the internet to see what is required. Of course we all know that just because it is on the internet does not mean it is true. Another place to check is with your friends that may be going through the same process.
    4. Talk to your siblings. This is especially important if they do not live close and it will be your responsibility to physically take care of your parent.   Maybe you are the one they talk to about financial matters. Maybe someone else is more into the medical part of their lives.
    5. Work the subject in to the conversations slowly instead of just sitting them down one day and say “we are going to do this”. That approach usually won’t work and may make them just shut down the whole subject.
    6. Work up to the point of discussing each point. Things I would suggest are end of life decisions, power of attorney for both medical and financial transactions, funeral arrangements, will, etc.
    7. Make sure it is done through an attorney. Even though you may know what your parents want, it if it not written down in a legal manner, you may not be able to make it happen.
  3. Get the materials together.
    1. I covered this in step 2 but basically it is researching your state’s laws, discussing with family members, etc. You could also talk to an estate lawyer, read different books or articles on the subject and many other steps but do not let this be a stopping place or a place to get bogged down.
  4. Just do it.
    1. Get off your duff and do it!

 

While you are at it, think about this for yourself. No matter what your age, you should have these legal matters taken care of. I would like to live forever but I won’t. We have this taken care of and my children are well aware of what I want to happen. There will be no fighting about anything as it is all taken care of. This actually gave me peace of mind as I don’t want them to have to guess at what I wanted.

When the caregiver needs a caregiver – lessons it taught me.

Recently I took a fall and badly injured the knee I had replaced last fall.  Suddenly, I needed someone to do certain things for me.

It really puts it into perspective how the person we are taking care of feels.  Here are five items that I really never thought much about:

1.  PrivacyI had none.  I had to have someone help with bathing and for some reason that was very stressful for me.  We all have the same parts so what is the big deal?  It is a big deal.  Even though the person we are taking care of might be close family, they might still want privacy.  See what you can do to give them as much as possible.

2.  My schedule – Suddenly I had to do things when it was convenient for someone else.  Everyone was terrific about working with me but it was odd to have to have to have someone take out my dog, cook my meals, etc.  Being independent one day and then not the next was hard.  I will keep this in mind to see if people I am caring for would like things done on a different schedule if I can.

3.  Sleep – I hate to sleep on a schedule.  You get used to getting up and going to bed when you want but when others are helping, you adjust.   I couldn’t get up to get to the rest room so had to watch my drinking habits.  It was hard to move around to get comfortable also but I lived.  This will make me consider ways to make my “patients” more comfortable at night.  When mom was here, we put a baby monitor in her room so I could hear if she needed help in the night.

4.  Irritability – I try to be pleasant all the time but I found out that I can be a real crab when I am hurting.  I have had people tell me that the people they were caring for were real bitchy at time and now I definitely understand how that could be.  Mom never really complained but when she wanted to could be VERY stubborn.  She would just look at me with a gleam in her eye and say “NOPE”!  When she said that, there was no reasoning with her.

5.  Medication – I confess that I am not the best at taking my meds on a strict schedule.  I also take supplements like calcium and vitamins.  Due to outside help, these were looked at very carefully.  I felt like I was a little kids being spied on.  I realize that medications can all have interactions with foods, drinks and other meds but I was on top of that and having someone question it made me irritated.

Now, none of this is complaining.  People have to do what they have to do but it really opened my eyes to how what I was doing might make someone else feel.  It is easy to get in a habit and just do things without really thinking how the other person might feel.  Take time to see how what, how and when what you are doing might be interpreted by the person you are caring for.

Ask them if you could do things differently to help them.  Ask for suggestions but be prepared, you might get them.