The term “sandwich generation” typically refers to adult children stuck between caring for both their children and their aging parents. But even for those without children, or for whom their children are grown and on their own, they may still feel caught between dealing with the increasing needs of aging parents and juggling other responsibilities, like a job.
If you are facing this reality, you aren’t alone. The stresses of supporting parents financially, physically and emotionally can be overwhelming in the best of situations. In the worst, they may not be sustainable. Luckily, resources are available that can support aging parents as well as their adult children.
If you want to explore the options to address the increasing care needs of aging parents, you should investigate assisted living. You may see untouched bills or untaken medication. Your parent may seem more forgetful, or you may notice preparing meals has become difficult for them. Assisted living is a big topic to tackle with parents, so following some tips can be helpful.
You will need to compare communities and learn about what is offered, but you should start with a conversation with your parent(s). Before beginning, plan to take a breath and approach the task acknowledging that the emotions on both sides should not be ignored. This is one of those times in life that a serious conversation may be necessary, and it can be manageable.
Don’t Rush to Judgment.
Don’t be quick to assume or judge your feelings and reactions, or those of your parents. Often, bringing up tough topics leads to unfiltered reactions that can make a person defensive. It’s better to keep calm and be open to what the other side is saying so as to not create a battle of wills.
Although roles seem to be changing, in your parents’ mind you are still the child and they are still in charge of their own life. Do yourself a favor and remember that when discussing your observations about the current situation with them. They may not be ready to acknowledge that they are struggling to maintain their independence.
It’s better to ask questions than to assume. Asking your parents how they feel about their health or finances, rather than assuming, will keep the dialogue open and lead to resolution much faster than telling them what to do. No parents want to burden their children, and some view health and financial information as confidential, fearing a child’s reaction.
Use Active Listening.
Instead of focusing on your own words, focus on hearing what your parents have to say. Ensure you’re truly engaged by using nonverbal cues such as eye contact and posture mirroring. If they are sitting, join them. Don’t stand looking down on them. Put your mobile phone away. Give them your undivided attention so you can truly tune in to what they are saying.
This is likely a conversation that you haven’t had before. You may have been thinking about it for a while because you’ve noticed some changes when visiting your parents. They likely are unaware or in denial about the changes. Be sure to prepare them and set up a time for the discussion so they are not blindsided. And be sure to give yourself some time to practice what points you want to make and identify your goals for the conversation. Be reasonable with your goals and know that this may take multiple conversations to get to a suitable solution that works for both you and your parent.
Work Together to Find a Solution.
Even with the best intentions for having a meaningful, productive conversation with your parents, it may not always lead to an agreement. It’s a good idea at the outset to acknowledge that the goal is to find a solution that works for all, but in the end you might have to agree to disagree. Take a break and find a time for the next conversation. Keep the lines of communication open. Have your parents take an active role in the decision. It doesn’t work to bribe them or threaten them. At the end of the day, what works is open, honest discussion and compromise by both parties.
The search for assisted living for aging parents starts with a conversation. Avoiding your concerns could lead to an emergency and then an urgent decision, which may limit choices. As an adult child, you don’t have to shoulder the burden alone. Talk to your parents. They’ll appreciate it and together you can make the best decision for you and your family.