Monday, February 05, 2007

Are you prepared for a Grandparent crisis?

As I wrote about in my last blog post, the challenges of aging parents are really on my mind lately as I work through my own family's health crisis. There are obvious risk factors to consider, such as your parent's financial stability and whether they have health insurance. But I have been thinking of other factors that affect your role as a supportive adult child.

Think over this list--and I'll give you a tip, the key here is communication. If you find issues you haven't thought about, please find the courage to talk to your parents, spouse and siblings as appropriate. When you are hit with a sudden crisis you will be GLAD YOU PLANNED. Whenever I say "parents" please consider your "in-laws" as well.

You may find yourself expectededly caught in a crisis if:

You are an only child.

Your parents disagree about how and where they should be spending their retirement years.

You have siblings who are not committed to helping out, or who say they will help out but don't follow through.

Your parents are divorced. Two single parents have different challenges than a couple.

Your parents live far away from family.

Your employer is not supportive of your rights to take family leave.

Your husband expects you to deal with his parents.

You and your parents have not talked about their long-term plans, but have expectations that may not match yours.

You have cultural issues that place the care of elderly parents in the hands of daughters and other female relatives.

Your parents do not have updated wills or other important estate planning documents, such as a health-care power of attorney or living will.

Your parents are have unrealistic expectations about their long-term plans.

You are stretched to the limit of what you can handle on a good day, and a crisis would be way too much to deal with.

Your spouse is not able to handle the kids on his own in your absence.

You do not have a support network of friends to call upon.


Making decisions about the well-being elderly parents is something that most of us will have to face. These decisions can take months or years of gentle prodding and listening in the best of circumstances. Please start now. These issues are difficult to face, and may require assistance from therapists, clergy, trusted friends and family members to work out. Honesty is truly the best approach. If your parents have stated or unstated intentions to live with you, and that plan does not work for your family, you need to talk.

Many of us have complicated situations. After reading my last blog post, my own Mom emphasized to me that these issues go on for years. My family's generational sandwich is a quadruple-decker. At age 65 my Mom is still concerned about her father, who is 90! If you have other insights from your own personal experience, please share them.

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