If we had a question, problem, or needed advice we turned to Mom and Dad! As our parents age, we need to step in to help BUT when and how?
Every Sunday, our large family would get together at my in-laws home for dinner. As the years passed, the wonderful cooking we had grown accustomed to began to taste different and not enough food was being prepared. During kitchen cleanup we began to notice out dated and mouldy food in the fridge. It was at this point we started rotating Sunday dinners among our houses and Mom went from being the host to being a guest. We accomplished this in a gentle manner so that we didn’t hurt her feelings as she gave up making these dinners. This shift also ensured that she had one healthy nutritious meal each week and that none of us got sick. As I think back, this was the beginning of our roles changing.
During a doctor’s appointment her son attended with her, the topic of driving came up. A written driver’s test was ordered to be followed by a road test. Mom never made it to the road test as no passing grade was achieved on the written portion. She blamed her son for taking away her license and therefore her freedom, not the fact that she could not pass the exam herself! Was this the right time to step in or should we have waited until someone got hurt or even killed? I felt sad for my husband as she mentioned the loss of her driving every time we saw her, until she finally forgot.
A family I recently worked with had all the best arrangements in place for their mom. Her medications were blister packed and delivered by the pharmacy, home care was coming twice daily to administer her medication at the correct times, a companion service had been hired to come three times a week for company, there was bathing assistance, light housekeeping, meal preparation, a laundry service coming once a week, and nutritious meals were being prepared and delivered by her daughters along with any groceries or items she needed. The family was in daily contact with their mom and only minutes away if she needed them.
During a visit the daughters found out that their mom was also paying someone in addition to everything else that was set up. This particular “friend” would “help” mom out, drive her places, stay for afternoon tea and a visit, go pick up unneeded groceries and supplies, take out the garbage, etc. In return, their mom was paying this person for the help.
The daughters decided that it was time for a heart to heart talk with their mom, worried she was at risk of someone taking advantage of her financially. Soon afterward, a Power of Attorney was appointed, and the extent of the story started to unfold. The “paid friend” had accepted a brand new truck, new mattresses for her and her family, and an unknown amount of cash. Once the access to cash was gone so was the “friend!”
This family had done EVERYTHING right- they had arranged everything that was needed to keep their mom comfortable and did not feel they needed to take over her finances as she was still of sound mind, and yet the actions of an unscrupulous friend went unnoticed. Once again…when do we need to parent our parents?
The best advice I can give is to help your eyes, ears, and nose open. Do not let the little changes pass without some investigation. An open dialogue with your parents on a regular basis will help you notice small things that may seem insignificant at first. Grab the milk out of the fridge yourself and notice anything out of place. Take note of how clean their clothes are and if the home is in order. Ask questions about their service providers. Remember that they are your parents and do not necessarily want to give up that role by asking their children for help, so you’ll want to do these things gently, but they still have to be done.