Getting older is not for wimps. I look in the mirror every morning and wonder what happened? One of the reasons we tremble at the thought of aging is found in the reality of watching our own parents age.
Years ago I watched my mom’s parents slowly decline. Grandpa had been a successful minister for many decades. He demonstrated sound judgment and became the “go to” person in our family. But the day came when mom had to take away his car keys. And then she assumed responsibility for the finances of her parents. The load weighed heavy on her shoulders.
One of the most difficult challenges you as a Baby Boomers will face is the moment when you start to assume the role of becoming the parent to your parents.
Maybe you’ve gone through this? Or maybe you see it coming. It’s tough. But you can be the one who guides them through the final stages of life.
Just as a good parent would step in and guide a son or daughter when needed, you too must step in and give guidance to your aging parents. If your parents live long enough the day will come when the roles reverse.
Here are 3 keys to help you get started in the role no one wants: becoming a parent to your parents.
1. Be the kind of parent to your parents that you wished they had been to you.
Your parents weren’t perfect. Even right now you can think of areas in which they could’ve done better. You wished they had been more patient, understanding, and tolerant. “If only my mom and dad…” fill in the blank.
As you become the parent, be the kind of mom or dad to them you wanted them to be to you. Learn from their mistakes. Take their parental shortcomings and learn from them. Don’t fail where they failed. Use those mistakes to become a better parent to your aging mom and dad.
2. Know the right time to step in and when to step back.
Timing is everything. As your parents move into the need for your help it will probably be a gradual decline. Be alert for moments when your help is needed. Pay attention. Observe.
Some of what you will see is harmless. Once in a while your mom might put the milk in the cabinet instead of the fridge! No harm, except for a lost gallon of milk. But it is a different issue if you find out your mom often forgets to turn the burner off on the stove.
There are moments when you must step in and moments when you must just keep quiet. May God give you the wisdom to know the difference!
3. Sit down and have an honest talk with your parents about their future and arrive at a basic plan.
Too often a conversation with aging parents never takes place. Yes, it might be the most difficult conversation ever. But when they start to slip and need your help try to talk about the future.
You know your parents well and what approach to use. Think it through. Maybe you drop a hint. Maybe you become direct. Maybe you look for an opportunity which brings up the subject. Whatever it takes have a conversation with your parents about their future.
For example, one of the things I learned watching my grandparents age is many nursing homes have a waiting list several years long. If the plan is for them to move into an assisted care facility you cannot wait until they need it. You must have a plan.
Becoming a parent to the ones who raised you is a difficult role to assume. But think about it. Raising you wasn’t too easy and your parents stepped up to the plate and did it! Now it’s your turn.