Sunday, June 8, 2008

How Do I Get My Parents to Move?

David Solie, author of How to Say It to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap with Our Elders, has a wonderful article on his blog on this topic. In it, he helps his readers close the gap between our generation's desire to keep our parents safe and well-cared for and their intense insistence on staying at home as long as possible. "How can they be so unreasonable?" we think. "Can't they see that I can't do it all for them anymore--I have a job, a husband and kids of my own. Dad keeps falling down, he's losing his eyesight. Mom gets lost on the way to the grocery store. But they fight me tooth and nail every step of the way!"

According to Solie, all is as it should be. And now that I have a fresh perspective on the problem I'd have to agree. Our parents are very much aware that they are in their final days, step by step losing everything they once held dear. For them having even one more day with the people they love, one more day in the home they created and care so much about, one more day means so very much.

You have a choice about the role you play in this progression. Silently, holding their hands, and doing everything possible to help them hold on to those minutes and days as long as possible without any limits and boundaries on your part is one. Many people come to me with this as their expectation. But there are limits and boundaries -- physical ones, financial ones. Eventually something -- or someone-- gives out. Or you can do the same thing but hold on to a reasonable expectation about what's happening and what can be done. "I'm here for you mom, I'm here for you dad but when we get to the point of xyz (set your limit and boundary here) we're going to have to try something else. Can we put a plan in place for that together?"

They may refuse that, too. "I lived in this house my whole life and I'm going to die here!" Your parents are accepting that this process is going to end in death. Under the circumstances their "safety" and "comfort" isn't necessarily their highest concern. It's about cherishing what they do have left a little bit longer. You'll do better if you can accept this, too. At least to some extent. Deal with your feelings about their impending death. Don't fight the reaper—work with it instead, choosing to make this time a loving end of life experience as much as possible.

Or you can fight with them, missing the point of why we're here together on this planet and why you're doing so much for them in the first place: you love each other. Keep that thought foremost in your minds and whatever has to be done will happen.

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