May 12, 2014 – “We’re not parenting our parents, we’re partnering with our parents,” says David Solie, an adult child who learned the hard way how important it is to respect aging parents’ wishes — whether one agrees with them or not.
Melissa Healy, in her Los Angeles Times article Talking to Aging Parents About Changes, addresses how well-meaning adult children often times overwhelm their parents with attempts to help. In Solie’s case, the best intentions of a loving son resulted in a three-year period when his mother would not speak with him. A physician’s assistant by training, Solie thought he knew what was best for his mother — she should move to a assisted living community; give up driving; turn over information about her finances; and so on. After some time, mother and son worked out their differences and Solie discusses what he learned about helping aging parents in his book “How to Say It to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap with Our Elders.”
Mr. Solie notes that “What was on [his mother’s] agenda — as with most aging parents at the threshold of needing their children’s’ help — were two things. She had a powerful need to maintain control over her life at a time when age and illness were making that increasingly complex. And she nurtured a deep desire to see and appreciate that her life had meant something — to consolidate her legacy.” Once he understood this, he approached her in a completely different way.
When we receive calls from adult children who are interested in finding senior services for their parents, we first determine whether the senior is on-board with receiving the service. For example, while it may seem that mom is lonely and needs companionship, Mom may actually be fine and may prefer her solitude. There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. Sometimes the adult children, in their hectic, action-packed lives believe that everyone flourishes with lots of activity. Mom must be amenable to companionship before we can recommend an agency to help. Likewise, adult children often appreciate the variety of services and amenities of a continuing care retirement community long before their parents make a decision to move. Such significant decisions can only be made when the senior is open to the possibilities.
We believe strongly that everyone has the right to make decisions that affect their own lives. While adult children do their best to appear objective, sometimes the parents just need to work it out alone or with the help of a knowledgeable senior advisor.
Copyright© 2014 Brenda Becker
Brenda Becker is the Vice-President of Marketing and Communications for Carroll Lutheran Village and The Lutheran Village at MILLER’S GRANT, a continuing care retirement community in Westminster, Maryland and a planned continuing care retirement community in Ellicott City, Maryland, respectively.