This blog is the first in a too part series on fixing the communications between Adult Children and Older Adults to have a better outcome in both parties’ lives.
Nobody rides for free. When it comes to this life, there is only one way out, and the end comes for every one of us. But, whether you are an Older Adult seeing that “Exit” sign loom ever closer or an Adult Child struggling with the concept that your parents may soon leave the stage, the concept of “fixing it” has to be addressed.
Older Adults: Perhaps you were a captain of industry, used to figuring out ways around obstacles in your company and commanding underlings to fix any problems. Or Adult Children, maybe you are a baby boomer, ever busy, with a cell phone in one hand, Bluetooth set up in your car, and an iPad at the ready in between times. Present you with the problem and it just gets added to your to-do list to figure out, fix, and check off.
Either scenario means you are oriented to getting things done, to figuring out any situation, to fixing things. The trouble is, aging is natural and inevitable and cannot be fixed. No amount of tennis games played can enable you to outrun death, and no checklist, no matter how well you accomplish all the tasks on it, will prevent that day from coming for your parents.
As the Older Adult, you are going through a natural process, and Adult Children, you can’t make everything okay for your parents. Everything is okay and unfolding as it should. Both of you can make this natural process a little easier, though, by paying attention.
Older Adults: Note your needs and express them.
Adult Children: Ask questions, listen well for the answers, and watch carefully for opportunities to help.
Neither of you will have all the answers. This is not a road that you have yet traveled. You will have many questions and not all of them will be fully answered, making you feel as though you don’t have all the information you’d like. Life—even the end of it—isn’t perfect, but you can still make good decisions.
Adult Children: The day you stop looking at your caregiver role as Ms. or Mr. Fixit is the first day of the rest of your life. The next time you have a caregiving challenge, stop for a moment and think about the situation. What does your parent really need? Have you asked? Have you asked in several ways—without badgering or nagging? Have you tried to see the situation through their eyes? If you’re sure about the need, then what are the possible ways to fill it? Is there really only the one way, the way that seems impossible right now and has you (and your Dad) so frustrated? Or might there be another way to skin the cat? Is there someone whom you might be able to ask for help?
You share the job of making the natural progression of aging easier on you both, but as hard as you try to keep this train from rolling down the tracks, you won’t be able to stop it. Once you can acknowledge and accept this reality, it will be easier to keep things in perspective. Your job is to do your best with this ultimate reality and to do it with positive intentions.
The next blog in this series will take up where we left off here with a case study of Lisa and her Dad, John. It shows some classical communications issues and assumptions that are often made and how they can be adapted to keep things in the right perspective for a better outcome for all.
Sheri Samotin is President of LifeBridge Solutions and AttackMedicalBills.com, and author of Facing the Finish: A Road Map for Aging Parents and Adult Children. She is also the California State Coordinator for Eldercare Matters. Sheri provides individual coaching and online, on demand coaching programs on this topic to her clients.