It may not be surprising, but seniors and their children do not always get along. These "children" may have long ago outgrown their challenging teen years, but some topics, although extremely important, can be sensitive and difficult to discuss for both the senior and their offspring.
Older parents can be fiercely independent. As long as they are capable of safely addressing their daily living needs, their independence should be honored. However, when a parent or older friend reaches a point at which driving, taking medications as prescribed, or handling finances cannot be done safely, someone needs to step in. Children often fail to intercede and a resulting injury, whether physical or financial, can be devastating.
Sometimes the offspring are in denial that a parent is "slipping" or the changes may come on so gradually that the progeny fails to realize that the senior has become a danger to themselves or others. Also, there is a fine line between helping and intruding. Taking away a senior's driver's license too early can be emotionally shattering and the same is true of relieving a parent of financial management.
What is the best way that aging seniors can responsibly address declining capabilities and, if the senior is reluctant to do so on their own, how can their offspring help?
First, aging adults must be realistic and recognize that a day may come when they cannot see well enough to drive or that cognitive capabilities are diminishing — and they need to plan accordingly.
Starting a discussion about capacity and end-of-life planning by an offspring can be tricky. Some parents may react with anger leading to accusations that the offspring are just looking out for their inheritance. Also, if the senior has several offspring and one begins the discussion independent of the others, they may become suspicious about the intentions behind the discussion. For this very reason it is best for seniors to consider the possibility that they may not always be able to address all their needs and initiate planning.
Besides driving, medication and finances, seniors should consider their surroundings. Make sure your stairways, hallways and bathrooms are free from tripping hazards because even the healthiest senior is prone to slips or falls. If you do need help at some point, it may begin with having someone come in to help with shopping, cooking and light housekeeping. Later you may need more advanced help with personal needs such as bathing or changing clothes.
Take the initiative and realistically consider your options, then plan accordingly. Also, make an agreement with your offspring or trusted friend that if they see that you need help, they will tell you — and then make a promise to them and to yourself that you will listen.
Liza Horvath is the president of Monterey Trust Management, a financial and trust management company.
This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 646-5262.