How Do I Know When it's Time to Make a Change?
It feels like the answer to that question should be much more obvious than it is. Mom or dad get a bit older, they begin to slow down, keeping up with the housework and daily living gets harder. We believe we’ll recognize when they’re struggling a bit, we’ll discuss it and agree it’s time to begin looking at options and planning for future needs.
Unfortunately that scenario, though a great premise for a Disney movie, rarely plays out that way in real life. Most likely because there are so many moving parts of the process with a healthy dose of emotion thrown in.
We see our parents as we always have. They may be a little slower, or have a little less energy, but they're still doing a lot of what they always have. They're doing OK. But many times we see what we want to see. We'd like them to be healthy. We know they want to stay in their home, and frankly as the adult child we like the idea of having the "family" home accessible to us. We're no more anxious for them to move than they are. On top of that we know it's going to be a difficult conversation, one that neither we nor our parents are excited to have. It's easier to put it off for a while if possible.
If you're noticing some changes in your loved one, how they're managing their home or life, don't overreact, but don't write it off either. It’s often the case that by the time the adult child notices things, they've been going on for some time. Is the food in the refrigerator fresh or are there items beyond their expiration date? Has their social life changed dramatically, is their life narrowing when you're unable to visit or take them somewhere?
Reluctance to be proactive about confronting the possibility of your parent moving from their home is a reasonable response. Who wants to initiate a conversation with a loved one when you know it’s going to cause pain and sadness? On the other hand, watching the richness of their life turn to isolation and loneliness can be equally painful. And the longer the conversation is postponed, the more their health and independence becomes compromised, the less willing they will be to have the conversation.
If you’re recognizing some of the signs I’ve noted but aren’t sure how to approach that conversation, I’d like to encourage you to read some more articles on the topic of difficult conversations. Or I encourage you to call our Laureate Cares help line at 262-832-7113 to consult with a professional who can listen to your story and help you walk through the steps of having an honoring conversation.