As I shared a few months ago, my siblings and I are going through the motions once again of what to do with an aging parent. This time, it is our father. He is 74-years old and dealing with some harsh outcomes from years of making poor health decisions. Suffice it to say, if you want to see the effects of years of physical inactivity and drinking, it is my father.
Getting others involved
While I am the closest geographically to my father, I communicated early in the process that I cannot be dad’s caregiver. My plate is too full with what I currently have, I do not need to take on the responsibility of a second aging parent coupled with my personal and professional obligations. I’ve burned out before from taking on too much, I am not looking to repeat that experience.
Admitting that you do not have the bandwidth, time, or skills to be someone’s caregiver is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it is better to admit you are not able or even interested in helping, than taking something on which you know will inevitably fail.
Katie, my oldest sister, is a really organized person which makes her a great person to handle the affairs of someone who can’t manage them anymore. My dad has been hesitant and despite oral objections, has, thus far, gone along with what we have advocated for. In a few instances it required a little bit of blunt communication, but it hasn’t been as bad as I first expected.
After getting a new power of attorney executed, my sister made quick work of getting a lay of the land on financials. We aren’t making any immediate decisions yet when it comes to money and investments. Due to a recent fall, hospitalization, and a month of rehab, it became really clear that his house is no longer a safe place for him.
You can’t hand over the reins and stay on the horse.
One thing that has been helpful in this situation is Katie has literally picked up on the baton and carried it 100%. She was a little apprehensive at first, airing the general, hey, I don’t do this for a living and I don’t want to be critiqued, which, fair concern. Katie has come back to me with a couple questions or concerns, which is great, but so far we’re working together really well on these issues. To her credit, she is handling all the “hard” conversations with my dad and thus far, I’ve helped minimally. Katie and I definitely have different approaches with our parents. She has worked for a large company in human resources for going on twenty years. Regardless of the difference in approach, both methods get it done.
My role with dad has been primarily a sounding board for Katie and assistant coordinator for how/when to do things. One of the challenges I know she’s had is not having a clear path, script or road to follow. She called me yesterday and asked me, “how do I sign dad up for medicare?” Legitimate question. “Yeah, I have no idea. Sometimes you just have to make a phone call and figure it out.”
Knowing what and how to engage your parent
I was at a cocktail party with a colleague a few years ago and we were discussing our folks and the challenges that go along with caring for them. He shared with me the following insight:
Twice a child, once a man.
In the simplest terms possible, that is exactly what happens to your parent as they age. Your relationship transforms from being the child, to the parent of your parent. What comes along with that? All the nonsense that comes along with parenting your own children!
Remember how you were as a teenager? That is what you’re going to have with a parent. You are going to be seen as the person boxing in their freedom. Making your parent aware of limitations that they may not be ready for and may not like. You do not have to respond to every word, sentence and thought that comes from their mouth! Sometimes making your statement, then allowing silence to do the heavy lifting is the best play. Make your point, let them reply, hear them, move on.