We would all like to think the relationship we share with our parents will always be the same, but as parents age, that relationship often changes. One of the most difficult transitions in life occurs when we realize our elderly parents are making poor decisions and they need our help or intervention.
When Should You Intervene?
Making decisions for elderly parents can be challenging. Parents may insist they don’t need help and tell you to mind your own business. They may be displaying subtle signs of memory loss or dementia, and you’re not sure how to approach them about it.
So how do you convince them you have their best interests at heart, and only want to protect them from choices that could be harmful to their health or financial well-being?
How Do You Start the Process?
A family meeting is a good place to begin. The topic is a sensitive one and must be handled with care. No one (especially a parent) likes to admit they need help taking care of things they have always managed alone, so be as gentle and understanding as you can.
A family meeting can be a pleasant and productive gathering if it is approached with love and transparency. Let your parents know that you would like to help them remain as independent as possible and that you will provide the help they need to make sure that happens.
What Should We Discuss at a Family Meeting?
One of the biggest concerns in most cases is money management. You may have noticed late notices, unopened bills, or overdraft notices in the pile of mail on the table.
As banks, financial institutions, utility and electric companies, insurance companies and other places where money is owed or exchanged have gone to online transactions, our aging parents may be lost in a world they don’t understand. They will need your help to make the necessary adjustments with this new but necessary change in the way they do business.
There’s also the issue of telemarketers or scam artists who prey on the elderly, in their attempts to extract money from their bank accounts. Scare tactics over the telephone may prompt your parents to disclose personal information to someone who will use it to cheat them out of hard-earned savings or retirement funds. Help your parents understand how scams work, and how to avoid them.
What About Driving?
Driving is a life-long privilege that most people do not want to give up. If your parent is still driving and you feel it is no longer safe for them to do so, give them reasons why you feel that way.
Help them find alternatives to driving that will still allow them to have some freedom if possible. Many towns have transportation services for seniors that go to doctor’s offices, grocery stores, and hair salons. Find out about these services and be sure your parent knows how to access them.
Check out Uber or Lyft if they are able to use them to maintain independence for as long as possible.
As a result of Covid-19, most grocery stores and many retailers offer delivery services directly to the home. If your parents aren’t familiar with how to shop online and set up delivery, help them learn to utilize those services or do it for them.
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The Most Important Thing You Can Do is Listen
When you sit down together, focus on the concerns your parents have. Listen closely as they tell you about their fears, their dreams, and how they see their future.
Don’t exclude brothers and sisters when trying to help your parents prepare for a new way of making things work. Everybody has something to bring to the table, and this is not the time to air old conflicts.
Sitting together and brainstorming about how to make Mom and Dad’s life easy and safe as they age is the goal.
With that in mind, siblings should look back on their lives and focus on what they have in common, even if their lives have gone in different directions as adults. The common denominator is your parents. If everyone in the family can work together, it will be a winning situation for not only the parents, but for everyone who loves them.
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