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Are you in Burnout? 10 Important Questions and Answers

Talking to your aging parents about necessary changes

Talking to your aging parent about the physical and mental losses they are experiencing as they age can be difficult, especially when major decisions and life changes need to be made.

You might feel you need to start a conversation with your aging parents about when it is time for them to sell the house and move to an apartment or an assisted-living facility. They may be more receptive to the idea if you share with them that you want them to participate in the planning process. This type of decision will inevitably need to be made and if they don’t have the conversation with you now, then you won’t know what they want when the time comes – which it will.

You can also educate your parents about the fact that, if they wait too long, they may lose what choice they currently have about where they will live because they will have to take whatever bed becomes available when their health fails, due to a shortage of adequate beds for elderly patients.

Another conversation you will likely want to start having as your parents age, is about ensuring that you know what their preferences will be when they reach end of life. You can tell them that they need to have a plan in place for when their health begins to fail so that their wishes will be known, especially if they are not in good enough shape to participate in the decision-making process when it happens. They might be more willing to cooperate with you if they know that it will be easier for you to invoke Power of Attorney to take care of both them and their assets if they set up the paperwork today.

Of course, there are plenty of older adults who find this whole line of discussion overwhelming. They may put off selling their house and down-sizing to a condominium or assisted-living facility, stating they want to die in their home, but this puts an unfair burden on you. What will happen when they find themselves unable to care for themselves? Will their care fall on your shoulders? Will you have to clean out the house and look after its sale?

In these situations, I advise my clients to come to peace with the fact that their parent is making an informed decision, and that they, as the adult child, can do absolutely nothing when their parent is unwilling to cooperate.

Read more about When elderly parents become dependent

At these times, we talk about the fact that the parent will likely leave their house in an ambulance after they have fallen or found collapsed in their home. I suggest my clients make peace with this fact because the parent has made their own decision to allow this to happen. I counsel my clients to prepare themselves for this eventuality so that they will not feel inappropriate guilt.

Once an adult child has done their best to help their parent protect themselves from something nasty happening, that child carries no further responsibility to care for the parent, but rather is left to wait for the inevitable. I suggest recognizing that the aging parent “made their own bed,” and that these consequences are the natural outcome, because it can be helpful.

I also counsel adult children to be prepared to transition their aging parent into long-term care as soon as the ambulance ride takes place, because accepting the parent back into the home only means that another ambulance ride is coming, and that the adult child will find themselves back in the same situation again.

Talking to your aging parent about the physical and mental losses they are experiencing as they age can be difficult, especially when major decisions and life changes need to be made.

Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta 

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Are you in Burnout? 10 Important Questions and Answers
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