Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you have to keep moving. ~ A. Einstein
There is no shortage of press given to the Sandwich Generation so if you’re tired of reading about that topic I’ll see you next week but if you’ve got aging parents and kids at any age and haven’t read too much about it, this one is for you. Well, its also for you if you’re that aging parent (I can only imagine how hard it is to swallow that designation.)
None of us like to really think about ‘the end’ but there comes a time when it just is what it is. I ran into Fay the other, my now 100 year old neighbor, who told me she was sorry about some recent local news but then quipped, “I don’t really need to worry about what that will do for our property values because I’ll be gone before they get this thing built!” Talk about embracing the reality of where she’s at! Although watch out Fay, your luck is that you’ll be around for another many years!
There are some inevitable pieces that come with getting older and one of those is that if you’re lucky we can plan for how we manage the pieces of what’s next on the horizon for us. Did I just say ‘lucky’? Yep. Planning or even thinking in the heat of a crisis is next to impossible. My focus today is to ask you to start the discussion, start thinking and start planning.
Where to start? A family meeting, with your parents, your siblings and if appropriate other family or friends who are involved in the day to day activities of your parents is step one. The purpose of this meeting isn’t to be dour but rather to just start the process of laying out a set of expectations for what might be ahead. Think of it as planning a trip; you don’t know necessarily what you’ll see or what the weather will be like but you can have some ideas of what your priorities are. Chances are good your parents have already started thinking about what their priorities are and what means the most to them; this is your opportunity to hear them out about those choices. Please remember, these are decisions your parents get to make and doing it their way is of paramount importance for as long as it is feasible to do so.
Next step is to get a handle on the medical history and who is treating your parents. Have your parents made medical decisions you’re currently unaware of that would be best talked about now? And not, for the record, with the intention of changing their minds but in an effort to understand and honor those decisions.
A final step for the start of the process? Try, if you can, to understand and respect the thinking that has gone into their decision making. There was a British woman who recently decided she’d rather travel the United States, China and Europe in an RV with her son, daughter in law and poodle than undergo treatment for cancer (google Driving Miss Norma for more details). Her thinking? According to the news accounts she wasn’t interested in surgery, chemo, radiation and possible recovery especially since her husband had died 2 days prior to her own diagnosis. Her final months look to be a long series of amazing adventures! How great is that? Since life really is one huge adventure I can’t help but think of what a great gift she has given to many who were a part of her travels.
I recognize this is a tough ask this week but if you can, won’t you start the conversation? Have you already done so? Nice job. Really. Please treat yourself well as you move through this set of conversations and if you need a walk in the woods or a nice cup of tea please take the time to do so.
Wishing you the best for your week ahead!