Throughout history, there seems to be a time in most families when adult children and parents experience a role reversal. This is quite normal and can be seen as an opportunity to give back to our senior family and loved ones. That certainly doesn’t mean that it is easy. These kinds of transitions are fraught with awkward and difficult times. Sometimes, the parents are stubbornly independent, and other times, the kids are so absorbed in their own issues that they don’t even see the decline of their parents.
Families of seniors that are close vs those that are at a distance.
When families live in close proximity and interact frequently, the observations may come gradually. When there is daily or weekly engagement, the kids may easily become caregivers in a limited fashion. It can be a very slow transition. Even if it is just discussing decisions and/or healthcare concerns, there is a natural exchange and more insight into their situation.
When the kids are some distance away and only see their parents infrequently, the decline may be suddenly apparent or even shocking. In this case, it is easy to feel panicked and rush to make decisions that may be resisted.
Going slow is best.
So, as a general rule of thumb, it is just better to go slow. No one really likes to be told what to do. At the same time, it is imperative to start those conversations sooner rather than later. First comes the observations of decline or struggle and then the appropriate conversation. It certainly would be ideal if these conversations began long before there was any need, but that is not the typical situation.
The Sandwich Generation
As a person who has worked in the Senior Healthcare Industry for years, I have talked to hundreds of children who are trying desperately to help their parents navigate the issues of aging. The kids are identified as Adult Children or AC. This segment of the population is often considered the ‘sandwich generation.’ They may range in age from 40 to 60, and they are caring for their own kids and perhaps grandkids while providing assistance for their parents.
Our modern healthcare has created a cultural restructuring within families because we are living longer. I talked to one family recently that is successfully living with three generations in one house. The daughter said, “We’re having a great time!” On the other hand, we receive calls from desperate kids who cannot cope with home management, children, careers, and care for their parents. While one family may seem heroic for how much they manage, others are confused and guilt-ridden. But no one is to blame this is a natural part of family transitions. We do our best to provide what we can and get help for what we can’t manage. The only mistake is to ignore it.
Avoiding An Emergency – Accidents with seniors are never scheduled!
There are some very practical actions that should be taken to avoid a real emergency. At least there is a plan in place with the right documents in place. Sometimes, these conversations are difficult, but how much better to ask them before the need arises – accidents and illnesses are never scheduled! Pre-planning is really organizing your family for a sudden emergency or for a long-term care need. Just like young families need a fire escape plan for their young children, older families need an escape plan when there is a health status change with their parents.
Just a few of the practical planning documents are listed below, but the real issue is to let your Elders know that you are there to support them and help them feel safe and secure. These are just a few questions to start with:
- Do you have a power of attorney for healthcare and/or finances if there would ever be a time when you’re unable to make a decision?
- Do you currently have a financial advisor who is planning for your future?
- Do you have a living will to ensure your healthcare wishes are known? Where do you keep it?
- Do you have a plan for your healthcare if you need long-term assistance?
This is just a starting point. Always ask about their hopes and fears. Assure them that you’ll help them create a plan that makes you both feel secure. Most of all, let them know that you’re looking forward to wonderful times in the future.
Check out our next blogs (coming soon) about “Observations and Conversations.”
The next two blog posts, called “Observations and Conversations,” may help you navigate this transition. It is not simple, nor is it easy, but communication is critical. Each family is unique, but at the same time, there are issues that are pretty much universal.
Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” We need to work with our senior family members and loved ones to create the best future we can!
Call us in Briarcliff-Kansas City at (816) 888-7930 or (785) 267-2960 in Topeka, or complete the contact form below to schedule a tour and see everything available for seniors needing quality, local memory and assisted living care services.