Supporting aging parents and making decisions regarding changing housing and independence needs can challenge the closest of families. Here are some tips that can help make your families stronger and avoid stress.
It’s their Life
If your parent is still considered legally competent it is still their life and their decision. Your role is to assist them in achieving their goals while keeping them safe.
Your family members are not your enemies
You may have a strained relationship with certain family members. Remember, just like you, they are trying to do what they feel is right for the parent/s. Even if you don’t agree with their position you must learn to come to an understanding that is best for your parent.
Love and Respect
Speak to and treat each other respectfully. It is easy to fall into old family roles, behaviors and communicating styles. Remember to be attentive, listen for understanding, don’t interrupt and tone of voice does matter. Opening a productive dialog is the goal…not being right.
They are not Crazy Because They React Differently
Stress causes people to react differently. Some people withdraw, some become angry, other become sad while others will try to take charge and “fix” it. Acknowledge the stress and agree to work together.
Save the Drama for the Stage
Gossiping or complaining about family that is not present will usually end up causing more stress and family drama. Go back to number 3- speak respectfully about that person and to that person. If you have an issue address it with that person in person. NO TEXTS PLEASE
Who’s in Charge?
Someone should be in charge if mom and dad aren’t capable of making their own decisions. The best-case scenario is the senior chooses that person before they become incapable. If not as a group you may need to choose a leader. Once designated that person has the final say. You can express your opinion, but realize this is an incredibly difficult role and respect their willingness to accept it.
Late To The Party?
If you come after the process has started due to personal or geographical reasons don’t come ready to “save the world”. Those who have already put in the work, have seen the situation unfold and made difficult decisions need your support not the list of what they have done wrong according to you. If you feel guilty for your lack of participation, own it and work out those issues on your own time, privately.
Pick Your Battles
Ask yourself is it really a hill to die on? 99% is most likely not. Determine what’s really important to you and support your family member’s decisions on those things that aren’t extremely important to you.
Who are the players?
Numerous people may have ideas, but who are the players in this situation? If you are a family member by marriage, realize your primary role (usually) is to support and comfort your spouse and other family members, not to participate in decisions.
Keep Your Eye on the Ball
This is not an easy process. Keep your focus on the end goal, what is best for your mom and/or dad.