Last week, Verve hosted a webinar where I shared three key concepts to help you navigate through this ‘age and stage’ of life, where you may be worrying and wondering if your parents need more help. If you couldn’t join us on the webinar, you can watch it here or click on this link . As promised, here’s a summary of the key concepts:
Let me start by saying this; if you think your parents need more help, you’re probably right. Perhaps you’re noticing your parents a bit ‘out of their ordinary’ such as a change in eating patterns, less social engagement, or a change in mood or memory. Or there’s been an event, like a fall, or car accident, or a phone call that they’ve forgotten where they parked their car.
Much like how financial advisers say “the best time to start investing is now” … you can invest in the future well-being of both your parents and you by doing some of the work now to prepare for and plan your parent’s care needs.
There are two ways to approach it. You can white knuckle and react to a crisis, where you’re forced into making a rushed decision, because now due to that crisis, your choices are very limited. That can lead to a whole world of hurt that I want you to avoid.
The other (better) way is to have an intentional and proactive approach that gives you the competence and confidence to be the very best support for your parents.
Below are three key ways to help you be intentional and proactive with Now What?
Take the lead and be the guide your parents need
You may feel some role reversal with your parents, as you’re providing more of the care, advice, and guidance, and this can also feel awkward and “not how it’s supposed to work!”
Here’s an opportunity to step into your new role as their guide, confidante and even as their
Now What? Navigator with intention and clarity. These are questions you can work with:
- What are you committed to?
- What does being their guide look like?
In the video I share how I worked with these questions, which can give you some ideas to apply to your situation.
You’ll also benefit from doing the Current State/Ideal State exercise. Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left side write all the issues or concerns you have with your parents’ current living arrangement. On the right side write what you want things ideally to look like with your parents’ living arrangements.
This exercise can help you pragmatically look at the facts and create clarity with what themes may emerge as it relates to what’s keeping you up at night with worry about your parents.
These two questions can also help you prioritize your concerns and ideal outcome:
- What’s most important to your parents?
- What’s most important to you?
Challenge your Beliefs, Assumptions and Emotions
Coming to terms with our parents aging and their care needs is incredibly stressful, frightening, and overwhelming! It’s not like we’ve had any preparation or training for this, right?
Coupled with that, most people don’t have a solid understanding of seniors’ care, the full spectrum of care levels, and how it works. So, it’s possible, through reading media reports, or hearing stories from friends, that what you think you know, belief or feel about seniors’ care may not be serving you and your parents’ best interests right now.
When you look at the current state list you created, work with these questions:
- What are you most worried about?
- What’s your biggest concern right now?
- What’s the real challenge now for you?
What these questions are really getting at is this: What’s currently not working (or not working so well) that’s keeping you up at night? What are those 3:00 am thoughts that you’re wrestling with?
These questions can help uncover some of the emotional turmoil you may be feeling about your parents’ health, wellness, and safety with where they’re currently living and managing (or not).
Then it’s important to look at what you know and don’t know about your options. You can use these questions to help build your competence and confidence as their guide, with insight and information.
- What do I know about retirement living?
- What resources can I tap into to learn more?
- What’s most important for me to understand?
- How can I be the best guide for my parents to help us make the best decision?
Clarify and adjust Expectations (of your parents, yourself/siblings and of the home)
Disappointment = Expectations – Reality
The biggest contributor to family frustration and disappointment is unmet expectations.
Now that you have created some clarity around the current state and ideal state, and what’s worrying you the most, you can now look at what you can focus on that you CAN influence and control, to create the best possible outcome
Use this question to help get your ideas onto paper
What does Success look like to You?
Imagine you’ve helped your parents move into a wonderful retirement home community. They’ve lived there for six months now, and you’re telling a friend or co-worker how thrilled you are with your parents’ new retirement community. What needs to be in place for you to rave about it? How do you feel when you visit? What do you appreciate the most?
Share your success vision with your contact at the home, so you can see if what you expect aligns with reality (to avoid disappointment) or where adjustments may need to be made.
Every family has different definitions of success so it’s important that the home has clarity about yours.
Now is the time to equip yourself with confidence and competence so that you can be the best guide and support for your parents and family by making the best choices possible, with information and insight.
About Deborah Bakti
Deborah worked as an executive in seniors’ care for 11 years, and during that time she became a resident’s family member three times, with her husband, mom and dad. That life changing experience inspired her to leave her corporate career to start her company THINK Breakthrough, where she helps seniors care homes build their culture on the way in, one family, one conversation at a time.
Deborah’s the author of two books, her first is: “RECIPE for Empathy: Six Strategies to Transform your Families into Fans in Seniors’ Care and her most recent book:
Now What? Managing the Emotional Journey of Long Term Care for Families with over 8,000 copies sold in the first 6 months of release.