Adult Children

Monday, March 28, 2011

As a Geriatric Care Manager, I am usually called into a case when there is a family crisis–an illness, death in the family or other problem.  The best way to avoid chaotic situations is to plan ahead when everyone is in good health and able to make sound decisions.  For Adult Children who are in their 40’s, it is important to begin the conversation with their parents about future plans then, not wait until later when your parents are older.  The parents are generally in their late 60’s or 70’s and are living  in the  big house where they raised their children. They are enjoying their life and perhaps, beginning  retirement, traveling, working on new hobbies, taking courses, life is good.

In my practice, I often work with Adult Children who know that they want to have a conversation with their parents about future plans, however, they do not know how to begin. First, it means beginning the transition into a different type of relationship with their parents. This new  role brings up all sorts of emotions including fears, re-evaluaton of their life and the recognition that their parents are aging.  Second, the Adult Children do not have the tools to communicate with their parents, they can feel that this discussion is intrusive because it will inevitably lead to the issue of money and invasion of privacy.  Finally, maybe the Adult Children have not had a good relationship with their parent(s) and there is a long history of rancor and distrust, what happens now. How do they assure their parents that they want to do something in their best interest?

Most of the time, the family consists of one or more siblings who carry with them their relationships from childhood. If the sibling are close and have open relationships, then the process of having a discussion about talking with their parents about lifestyle changes and planning for the future can be reasonable and intelligent. However, what happens when the relationship between siblings is hostile, combative, destructive and antagonistic. Additionally, there can be spouses who are involved in this relationship. This is treacherous territory!

Another consideration when Adult Children are beginning to think about changes in their parents lifestyle, what are the implications for their lifestyles and relationships with their children and spouses. 

The best way to prepare for a conservation with your parents is to begin by thinking about what is the major goal that you want to achieve from  this dialogue and why is it the  most significant goal. If you can answer this question clearly, then you have clarity to begin the process.