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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Having difficult conversations about aging with a parent

I really found this article to be on target.  In Talking to Aging Parents about Changes there are lots of great examples of how to and how not to approach talking about difficult subjects with your parents.  There is also a reference to David Solie's new book which I haven't read.

One of the comments made in the article particularly hit home to me "Many baby boomers make the mistake of thinking of their new responsibilities as a role reversal. But that's not only wrong, Solie says, it's a formula for failure.  "We're not parenting our parents, we're partnering with our parents, " he says."

So, after reading this article yesterday I happened to call my 90 year old Mom to see how yesterday's doctor's appointment about her persistent gout went.  Well that went ok, new meds to try, etc.  Then she starts telling me she is having trouble staying awake, is having chills and sweats, etc. but didn't tell the doctor any of this yesterday (she saw a rheumatologist) and was just going to wait until her next regular doctor's appointment to bring it up.  How to talk about the need to take action now?  I chose to remind her of her last serious illness and how the symptoms were similar and that she had ended up in the hospital for 2 weeks followed by 2 weeks in rehab and that she probably has some sort of infection.  And I mentioned several times that I knew it was hard to find the energy to take action when you feel badly and that seeing the doctor does require her to find someone to drive her there but.....  And I emphasized that I wasn't trying to make the decision for her, but that I would hate to see her so sick that she was hospitalized again.  We left it that she didn't want me to call the doctor, that she couldn't call right after we were through talking because the housekeeper was vacuuming ..... but that she would take action and call the doctor and tell them it was serious.  I'll follow up tomorrow and see if she did.  So hard to have these conversations.

I am fortunate that my sons have asked me to share what I am learning from having an aged parent and what they should learn in advance of my potentially needing support.

I think that we have to have difficult conversations with everyone we care about at times and they are always hard.  I try to remind myself that my Mom is mentally fully competent even though she if getting frailer physically and she has the right to make her choices.  She acknowledges that I do leave it to her to decide - and that I keep talking about it until she takes action!!  She knows me pretty well.

Are you facing any of these conversations with elderly parents?  Do you agree with the points in the article?

6 comments:

  1. I don't have to deal with this yet but my grandma in law is 90 & lives down the street from us... I bought her some meds today & brought her some cookies as she's not feeling well. I'm thankful that I'm only a 5 minute walk away.. shes also mentally very "there", but her body isn't as strong as it used to be of course... Hope your mom feels better soon! :)

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    1. Carla, How nice to have her so close and that certainly makes it easier to help. My brother lives about 40 miles from my Mom and is such a help. I am a plane flight and then drive away so I can't do as much in person. I'm calling her later today to follow up and hopefully she is seeing the Dr. soon!

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  2. Juhli, what a great post and I very much appreciated the article - to recognize that our parents are still deserving of our respect even as they become less capable of managing daily life is so important. I loved the line about 'consolidating legacy' - I saw that in my own mother in her last year of life and now understand how important it was to her to feel she was indeed in control of her legacy. It was very hard to ratchet back my 'take charge and help' instincts. But hey - I learned that from the best - my mother! Talk about a legacy... :)

    Beautiful post - thank you~

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    1. Thanks Sybil. It is hard to not try to "manage" our parents when they don't approach things the way we would. And hard to know if intervention is at all appropriate.

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