Talk with the Family

Topic 2—Talk With The Family

Around 1990, my siblings and I received a letter from our mother.   Why send a letter when I see them at least a couple of times a week?  Surprise!  She writes to tell us that she has Parkinson’s’ Disease.  At first, you wonder why she didn’t call each of us.  As you reflect, it was apparent that this was a difficult moment in her life.  Her beautiful letter told us that she didn’t want to call each of us because she wasn’t sure if she could maintain her composer, and say everything without breaking down.  For many of us, it is too easy to just take over, and tell our parents what they should do. In this letter, mom shared her strong faith in God and her closeness to her children.  There is a lesson here.  Adult children must work on their listening skills again as parents age.  Less talk, more listening.  Fewer questions, and more listening. I have seen in my ministry where adult children want to take control of everything.  When that happens, their parents lose their value, confidence, and self-confidence.  This is the time to start a conversation, if not before, with the family to see how we as children can be supportive of our parents.

You DO NOT want to tell them you will help and are going to every appointment with them so that you can make sure they are getting the information correctly. That starts the process of them feeling the loss of control of their lives.  Ask them how you can help.  Treat them with respect.  I imagine most of us will be in that situation someday. How do we want our kids to help us?  Guide them into including you on decisions, like giving up their driving, and eventually their home.  Be supportive and encouraging.  You may need to take control right away, but do it in a supportive way rather than just becoming the parent of your parents.  Transition is different for everyone.

I got frustrated once with my mother and her driving.  She had agreed that she would only drive to church, which would take her on very wide streets and not much traffic.  Before this, she had a couple of accidents that were her fault while driving. Then one day she decided to go downtown to get her hair fixed.  “It was just for an hour, and I drove very slow,” was her response.  I think you can see the problem with driving slowly.  At that moment, I told her if she was going to go downtown, she could drive herself to all appointments.   That hurt her, and I knew I was wrong.  We are human, and our emotions can get away from us occasionally. I’m hoping these topics help you avoid my mistakes.  My wife was working part-time and usually took them to their appointments.  I was very fortunate to have a supportive wife, who was always willing to help.  In emergencies, the staff helped me if I had to leave suddenly.

Your involvement will continue to increase, until the point when they enter a nursing home.  You will still be involved in their care, but there is a sense of relief knowing they are safe.  It was 1992 when I started journaling. Not only was it helpful in keeping track of the deterioration of my parents, but it also helped me to be able to look back to see what worked and what didn’t.  It was reassuring and comforting.

Focus:  Start talking to your parents while they are still able to care for themselves, and find out what they want if their health deteriorates.  If you are the elder, talk to your children. Tell them where your documents are located.  Do a healthcare directive and share it with your children.  I have seen a few times in my ministry, where parents do not share information, or have a healthcare directive. Update your will. This is a mess you don’t want to put on your children.  If you are alone or don’t have children to take care of you later, then find a close friend or relative.  You are going to need that support.

The next topic is Planning Ahead.  Feel free to respond, ask questions, or say what you think.

I hope that you can find one thing that will be helpful to you.  Email: