When Visiting Older Parents, Near or Far
Note: I acknowledge that this blog’s portrait of a daughter and her aging parents is not everyone’s experience; but it’s mine, and I hope you will find some value in it.
With my post-COVID temporary shield of immunity, I flew to Florida on a packed airplane to see my parents during winter for the first time in two years. With less worry, I was able to spend a week in close quarters, love them, and witness their daily routine. I “arrived ready to be both caring and productive.”
What I Looked For
· Their overall happiness and wellbeing
· Any noticeable changes in health, behavior or independence
· Personal maintenance (exercise, diet, grooming, doctors’ appts, meds…)
· Home maintenance; safety and (in)conveniences
· How they got groceries, cooked and planned for meals
· Leisure activities and social connections
· Need for tech support (TV, mobile phone, computer, car, devices)
· Driving competence
· How they were communicating with each other
· Mentally and practically imagining life without the other
Given the nature of my care preparedness work, I had many questions and concerns. Being face-to-face enabled me to press deeper, more patiently and sensitively well beyond our weekly Zoom calls. After days, cocktails and meals, difficult conversations flowed.
What We Accomplished
I brought my computer to the table to record, update and share the document we were creating on the fly. There was a lot of detailed information my brother and I needed to know, and even more importantly, that my parents needed to know about each other. We covered contacts such as nearby friends, doctors and servicepeople, prescriptions, finances, legal matters, codes, keys, funeral and burial wishes and more. We made great progress, but there is still more to talk about.
When I was a kid, my father used to say, “Later” so often it became the family catchphrase. Now I know better that “later” is too late. I feel beyond grateful that both my parents are alive and thriving, and that we have the opportunity to share our lives. It’s hard to admit that the years ahead are fewer, inevitably accompanied by declining health and independence. Talking about the future together before there is a crisis feels like a priceless gift. It feels good (and necessary) to know the knowable answers, and how to best navigate what’s to come.
Please share this post with those you know who may benefit. Thank you kindly.