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WebSideStory Pick of the Week! 3/16/98

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Senior Housing Net
    June 16, 2000
    By Gail R. Mitchell
    If you are a boomer, you may have experienced difficulty 
    communicating with your parents as early as the sixties. 
    Take heed, for even now as mature adults, we can still 
    experience generational gaps. Communications is probably 
    one of the most important issues that crops up with adult 
    children caring for a parent. Likewise, caring for a spouse 
    can be equally as challenging for there are so many role 
    reversals that each person in the relationship must adjust 
    Discussing financial arrangements, illnesses, funeral 
    arrangements, etc is something that we all tend to shy 
    away from. However, as a primary caregiver, they are issues 
    that must be addressed. 
    You may be asking yourself, "when is the best time to 
    start a conversation with them?"  The answer is, as 
    soon as possible. There is no right time. There never will 
    be. It is up to you to slowly balance your own energies 
    and thoughts and begin expressing the importance in 
    having these topics discussed. Your loved ones might 
    not be receptive, but you must begin to master 
    communication skills by inquiring about the information 
    and answers that will be needed down the road a bit. 
    This is especially true since your parents are probably 
    still coherent and able to participate in decisions. For 
    those who's loved one are not capable, if there are no 
    written directions such as a will, an advanced directive, 
    etc., then you will need to speak with other family members 
    and the course of action you will need to take will be 
    quite different.
    In either case, it is important to remember to focus 
    your communications in a nonconfrontational manner.  
    Your intent should be to strengthen the ties between 
    you and your loved one and possibly the entire family. 
    You will want to focus your energies in creating valuable 
    decisions that will be for the highest good of all those 
    Many issues may come into play. Old patterns that may 
    stem from your childhood may crop up once again. Parents 
    while confessing that they don't want to be a burden to 
    their children are at times, the worst offenders. You may 
    still want to be the little girl who receives approval from 
    her daddy and mommy. Or you may have guilt that motivates 
    you to accept the role of being their primary caregiver. 
    It is important that you get in touch with what your 
    motivations are, why you have assumed the role as 
    caregiver and what you hope to accomplish through the 
    process of caregiving. If the old patterns appear to be 
    getting in the way of things, you must resolve yourself 
    to work through them. You cannot expect your loved 
    one to change. You must initiate the change from within 
    yourself. This might mean that you get some guidance or 
    counseling to help you work out the problems so that you 
    can move into forgiveness and ultimately open to love, 
    while assisting your loved ones into opening as well.
    Empathy and compassion are important characteristics 
    to continue developing, so that you will be able to anticipate 
    what is needed and to make wise decisions.
    You may initiate conversations in the beginning by asking 
    your loved one to express their fears. Fears can be centered 
    on financial constraints, a purposeless existence, loss of 
    friends, and more.  The elderly person who no longer feels 
    needed or helpful truly suffers greatly from within over this 
    loss. It is important to address issues of independency. 
    There is a personal independency in terms of their caring for 
    them selves on a daily basis and there is the independency to 
    be able to prepare meals, shop, get out, socialize, pay bills, 
    drive and have other needs met. I am sure you can imagine 
    the difficulty one might be going through when the realization 
    hits that you are no longer able to do these things for yourself. 
    Some people are able to accept these changes, but for many 
    the shifts are disastrous and a struggle persists from within 
    It is also important to remember that you should not try to 
    control or manipulate your loved one or others that are 
    involved in the caring of your loved one. I encourage you to 
    ask questions and really listen to their answers before 
    proceeding with any decisions, if they are coherent and 
    Many caregivers have expressed that they have become 
    their own parent's parent. In severe cases where the 
    parent is totally dependent due to a stroke, Alzheimer's 
    disease or some major disability, one is more apt to think 
    they have become the parent. Partnering is the ideal way 
    to think of this process. Even if a parent is incoherent, in a 
    coma, or whatever, I truly believe, the soul knows what is 
    going on.  Therefore, it is important to maintain respect and 
    trust just as if they were coherent.
    Most of our parents will not be able to ask for help outwardly 
    so they may ask questions or drop subtle hits that can hit 
    you like a ton of bricks, pushing all your buttons. Have patience 
    and compassion. This is their own way of expressing themselves. 
    You may not believe it, but they are doing the best that they 
    You may choose to pull current articles from magazines 
    and newsletters on eldercare issues and show them to your 
    parent and share what your thoughts and concerns are. Ask and 
    listen to what they are feeling. Ask your parents for advice. 
    Rather than asking them outright about concerns like wills, etc., 
    you may say to them that you are thinking of creating your 
    own will. How did they go about creating theirs? "I would like 
    your opinion before I... and perhaps, "how would you do 
    this if you were in my shoes?"
    Use these simple ideas that we have discussed here to begin 
    opening communications. The next featured article will continue 
    the process of communication skills. 
    Be gentle and nurturing with yourself and with your loved one.
    Warm wishes
    We look forward to the opportunity of serving you. We 
    welcome your comments, suggestions, and questions. Please 
    feel free to contact us at: or

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