Ali Davidson has a reality check that’s about as difficult to read as it is to talk about.
“If you’re an adult, and your parents are still alive and in decent health, it’s likely that you’ll have to take charge of their care at some point before they pass away,” said Davidson, a life coach and former owner of a home care agency who has authored the book It’s Between You and Me. “Most adult children do what they can to avoid the conversation with their parents about how they will handle that moment when it is apparent they are no longer able to care for themselves. Yes, it seems like it can be awkward and embarrassing, but it’s also necessary if you intend to lovingly and intelligently care for them as they get older.”
Care-giving is a reality for many adult children today. More than 50 years ago, care-giving was not as necessary, as the average life expectancy was barely over age 62. Today, the prevailing state of medical technology and care has advanced that life expectancy to 78, meaning that the likelihood of needing extra care in those later years is more likely than ever.
Davidson’s message to children is simple – power through the awkwardness in order to achieve a greater piece of mind, both for them and their parents.
“Despite our denial, tomorrow always comes,” she added. “But what your tomorrow will look like and feel like will depend on how ready you are to embrace it. Caring for elderly parents can be very difficult for the adult child, especially when a crisis is what typically creates the need for a conversation about senior care. My hope is that people will begin to think preventively when it comes to anticipating that need, and creating a manageable plan to account for that moment.”
The key parts of the equation for a successful discussion of eldercare with parents resides in each party recognizing the other’s primary needs.
“Your parents need to know that they can maintain control over what happens to them even when they need extra care,” she said. “Children can use this conversation as a way of giving their parents the opportunity to design their lives through the aging years, when they are healthy, and not clouded by the heightened emotions of a critical medical crisis that necessitates immediate action. Children can also express their need for peace of mind for when that time comes. The main benefit of having the conversation now, rather than later, is that children and parents can work out a plan cooperatively that addresses everyone’s needs, so that if a trigger event happens, families can act fast to protect the ones they love in the manner that their loved ones have chosen.”