How to be a Rockstar to an Aging Parent

imageYour parents have always been the drummers in your life. They’ve kept the steady beat allowing you — the guitarist and lead vocalist — to riff and rock out to your heart’s content. And they still do. Chances are, your mom or dad live independently and they like it. The AARP reports that over 90 percent of Americans over 65 wish to stay living in their own home for as long as possible. Eighty percent of that group wants their current home to remain as their future home. Thirty percent of seniors — our moms and dads — live alone. They’ve lived a rocking good life and they want to continue to do so. But with each holiday visit and each Thanksgiving dinner, you begin to notice Mom or Dad acting a little differently. Tell-tale signs of slight vertigo or small instances of forgetfulness make you question the viability of mom or dad staying in their home. Your favorite aging drummer isn’t quite keeping the beat like she used to. You cannot help but start to worry. You fear his loss of balance may lead to falls. You wonder if that cough she has may be the start of something more. So, with much thought and deliberation, you have decided that something more needs to be done. Your aging parent needs to be cared for. Who will provide that care? How much care will be needed? 1. Stop Banging Your Head and Start Head Banging Odds are, you are going to be the roadie for your aging parents. Statistics show that unpaid caregivers provide over 83% of the long-term care. So stop fretting about what to do and start planning to do it. Most people talk about “what to do with mom.” Don’t be most people. Be a rockstar. The folks who spent the first 20 to 60 years taking care of you — the man or woman who provided you with confidence, piano lessons, courage, strength, warmth, a little bit of grief, advice (whether you took it or not), and most importantly, love — this person deserves the same care back. Give it to them! Now the issue is: how will you convince Mom or Dad to let you provide that care? In other words, how do you get Mom and Dad’s permission to be a rock star kid for them? When you lived under one roof in the past, they were the supervisor, the curfew setter and the final word. Now that they will be under your roof, will the power dynamic flip? Probably not, but you should talk about the change. 2. Make Sure You Have Open and Honest Dialogue Explain to them that you are coming from a place of love. Make it clear from the get-go. In this way, any perception of a loss of freedom is contextualized within that love. You are worried about their safety and do not wish for them to be alone should an accident happen — and they do. Why do I need to change? Why do I need to move? Why do I need to move in with you? How will this even work? Where will I sleep? What will happen to my stuff? Naturally, they will have questions. Hear their concerns — really listen. This will be a scary time for them. Then, carefully share your concerns. Don’t push them away. Tell them what you’re trying to be mindful of. For both their safety and your peace of mind, they will want you nearby. If you approach these conversations with a spirit of love (and a bucket of patience), you’ll make it through. 3. Create a Rock Star Aging in Place Plan Then come the logistics: create a plan. What will happen to their current home? What will happen to their stuff? How will they get help when they need it when you’re gone? How are you going to reconfigure finances — on both your end and on theirs? Next up, plan for various home modifications and installments that will make your aging rockstar feel safer and more comfortable in your home: grab bars, ramps, accessible light switches, wheel chair accessible rooms, stair lighting, full body dryers, handheld showers, medical alert system, nonslip bath mats — there are numerous changes that you can add to your home to keep them safe. Many minor home modifications and repairs can be done for less than $500. If you do these together and with clear, open communication, you can make the move-in process a collaborative one that creates a new home for you both. And the Show Goes On… These adjustments and changes can be hard for both of you, but it is worth the journey. You want to create time and space for love and care with your aging parents, your kids, and you, so you have more time to make beautiful music together. Good luck and rock on. This is a guest post from Shayne Fitz-Coy. Shayne is the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company headquartered in Williamsport, Pennsylvania with offices nationwide. Shayne has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Harvard College and a Masters in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Shayne hails from Maryland, and now calls the Bay Area home.