The other day, my children were joking about my getting older and how I better not expect them to take care of me as I age. Initially, this was said with straight faces – it took me a moment to realize they were just kidding. But, since the subject was brought up, I thought it was a good opportunity to spend a few minutes discussing adult children and aging parents. Alas, always a Father, always looking for coaching opportunities. Since my children are in their early 20s, I kept the conversation, high level, simple and light.
Afterward, the conversation got me thinking. If I could, what guidelines would I like to provide for my children? After all, I have seen so many of my clients experience care for their aging parents. Through their stories, I have learned more than I ever thought I would about the subject. So, here is what I think I would like to say to my children.
Fast forward several years to when I need care.
I love you more than I ever thought possible. And, I know you love me too. We have had our ups and downs, but we all know we will always be there for one another – through good times and tough times. No question. Remember when you were growing up, we were “Team Curry?” Now, I need care. I know you would be glad to care for me as best you can, in my home or in yours. I know that. No question. “Team Curry.”
Here’s what I am worried about. Care can be physically demanding. I may need help getting around. I may have trouble using the bathroom and taking a shower. Sometimes, getting out of bed may be tough. I may need to be transported in a wheel chair. I may fall and need someone to lift me up. I’m going to need to be taken to doctors, and probably everywhere else for that matter. My demands may occur any time in any 24 hour period 365 days a year. I’m concerned that the physical demands of providing my care will wear you out.
Here’s what I am worried about. Care can be emotionally demanding. You are going to be tired. Just because I need care doesn’t mean that your other daily activities will disappear so that you can take care of me. I may not be logical. I may not hear you well. I may not see well. I may forget things. I may get dementia or Alzheimer’s. I may wander out of the house in the middle of the night. I may not take my medications. I’m concerned that the emotional demands of providing my care will drain you and affect the quality of our relationship.
Here’s what I am worried about. Aging is not always pretty. I may have trouble using the shower. I may need someone to help me use the bathroom. I may require help putting adult diapers on and taking them off. I may not be able to get dressed and undressed by myself. I may need help eating. And, I’m embarrassed about needing this kind of help. I’m concerned that I won’t be comfortable with you helping me with these types of things.
Here’s what I am worried about. You probably have a job. Your family depends on your salary. You probably are proud of and enjoy your career. If you care for me, you may have to sacrifice your career. Or your spouse may have to sacrifice his or her career. For who knows how long. Once my care ends, it may take you a while to find a fulfilling job. If you can’t provide all of my care, I may not have enough money to pay for it, and I may need you to pay the bills. I am concerned that your career will be disturbed and your family will be financially impacted due to my care needs.
Here’s what I am worried about. For as long as I have known you, I have dreamed big for you. I have wished for your happiness, hoped for your fulfillment, prayed for your health, and longed for you to experience all the world has to offer. I don’t know how long I will need care. It could be for days or it could be for years. After all, improvements in medicine are allowing us to live longer, often in a chronically ill state. But, I do know this. The longer I need care, the more time you will spend on providing my care. I’m concerned that your life will be interrupted and that you may miss out on some of life’s pleasures.
Now, let’s come back to the present.
Here’s what I want us to do. Let’s talk about this before I get too old. I want to tell you everything I have written here. I want us to talk about all of the options for providing my care. I want you to know who to call when you need help figuring things out. I know you want to care for me, but I want to talk about limits. Mine. The things I wrote about here. Let’s talk about different scenarios, what ifs, so to speak. I know we can’t make a perfect plan now, but I want to talk about my concerns. And yours. And, I don’t want this to be a one-time conversation. I want you to know this is scary for me. I may cry.
You see kids, what’s most important to me is that you be my care advocate. My care CEO. Please make sure the quality of my care is strong. That I am respected. That I age in a place that is as comfortable to me as possible. Remember “Team Curry?”
You see kids, what’s most important to me is that the quality of your life is impacted as little as possible. I’m still dreaming for you.
You see kids, what’s most important to me is that we keep our relationship strong. Because I love you more than I ever thought possible.
And, I know you love me too.
To my clients, “What Is Your Second Half Strategy?”