Home for the Holidays
Going home for a holiday visit can provide an opportunity to observe what may be changing in our parents’ lives. Sometimes the changes are good: dad has started a low sodium diet, mom is having her eyesight addressed and the roof is being replaced after 30 years. Other times, we may be dismayed by what we find: dad can no longer keep up the yard work, furnishings and flooring look stained, dingy and dusty, food is in the pantry or refrigerator is outdated and the furnace does not seem to be working properly.
Once we notice things that make us worry or uncomfortable, we have a tendency to step in and immediately tell our parents what we think they should do. Sometimes that advice is not entirely welcome. Our parents may perceive our advice as criticism and productive conversation may shut down. Of course, if you feel there are immediate health and safety issues in the home, the only responsible action is to try and open a dialogue with your parents regardless of how difficult. However, if you find you are truly uncomfortable with the changes you notice in your parents’ home, a more thoughtful, more respectful approach will yield better results.
During your visit, make a private list of concerns, but do not address them during your holiday weekend. Instead, use the holiday time to enjoy your family and continue observing their overall health, physical and mental abilities. Chances are mom and dad may even raise some concerns on their own. Like most of their generation, aging parents want to appear capable and independent and often have difficulty letting us know when they need help.
Once the holidays are over, review your list of concerns with siblings, friends, a social worker or care manager. This may serve as a “reality check” for your own level of concern. Remember, just because our parents have changed the way they live, it does not mean they are incapable of living on their own.
Eventually discuss your more serious concerns with your parents, not as criticism, but as observations. The “Parent Care Conversation” by Dan Taylor, is one of many books that may help you talk to your parents.