This, by far, has been the most difficult part of the journey. Her dreams lost. Our dreams truncated.
It’s the moment when everyone realizes: “Oh yeah, I forgot to become a beauty queen.” or “Oh – I meant to become a doctor.”
My mother’s dream was to have a lot of land with a luxury log cabin, livestock, 4-wheelers for each of us to ride when we visited, a hearty meal created for us when we walked through the door with our little ones, a tennis court in the back 20 next to the swimming pool next to the fishing hole next to the live-in treehouse overlooking the 500 acres of land………that she never owned.
But – what did any of us do to earn that kind of living? I didn’t go to law school. My brother went into ministry – he got his doctorate, but he never became the rich orthodontist he once thought he might be. My sister didn’t marry a wealthy Wall Street investor. We live humble and happy lives, but – not always dreamy. It’s a struggle for each of us. I, for one, wouldn’t trade the struggle for an easy life. I like the character I’ve seen it build in each of us.
This life didn’t turn out the way I thought it would.
How to Start Talking about Assisted or Supportive Living with your Parent: Starting the Talks
1. It starts with one talk. It requires many talks.
While you, your parent’s doctor, your parent’s friends have all come to realize the time is now, it may not be as clear to your parent. But, the talks have to begin. The sooner the better.
2. Let your parent process the feelings.
These may be powerful. It may be like “life flashed before my eyes.” Let your parent have his feelings. Try to not get into any defensive discussion.
Your attitude, whether you say it out loud or not needs to be: “We love you. We’ll talk more. We love you. We want the best care for you. We all need help. We love you.”
A great concept of “changing the dance” by Harriet Lerner describes how to avoid old communication patterns that may have you stuck.
3. Understand your parent’s stage of development.
The Aging Years described by psycho-analytics theorist, Erik Erikson, forces dealing with psycho-social crisis of Ego Integrity vs. Despair. “Is it okay to have been me?”
It is important that, throughout this process, you assure your parent by recalling all the great things she has done and all the lives she has touched. It is common to feel “I’m a failure” or “My life is over”.
4. Realize that everyone’s lives are affected.
Being in the “sandwich” years, by definition, may mean that you are close to being in the same stage of development as your parent.
A Place for Mom reminding me that everyone involved is affected and you don’t just want the best for your parent, you want the best for all – your children, your spouse, your marriage, your own health, your siblings lives and health.
Not getting the help your parent needs could mean severely damaging any of these other important areas. Helping your parent live shouldn’t mean that you have to sacrifice your own life and health.
5. Have your research done before the talks start.
Have information to share at the ready. Your parent may not remember exactly what you said that first talk, but she will know she isn’t free-falling and that someone is going to figure out what to do.
6. Comfort but don’t coddle.
Resist the “messiah complex”. Trust your parent’s future to the only one who can truly help – God. Your parent’s resistance can initially come from a place of fear and grief, but you also may be dealing with plain old selfishness. Particularly if your parent is unwilling to offer up any other plan.
Give room for the ebb and flow of the conversation that will lead you and all involved to work through personal issues and to get to the right answer.
Starting the Talk free printable .pdf