It’s not easy for parents to ask for help, and it’s not easy for kids to accept the possibility of a role-reversal. I know this first-hand because I’ve been confronted with an ever-looming possibility that I might need to step in and offer some assistance very soon. Yet, knowing my own parents, I have to do it graciously or else be chided for interfering in a matter I “don’t understand.”
So it comes to how do I offer my assistance without offending my parents or making them believe I think they’re “losing it?” As a reasonable person, I’ve realized I can offer logical solutions that they either choose to try, or not since they still are capable of making these decisions on their own. In my own case, I’ve come up with possible solutions to problems:
Problem: The yard is too much to take care of – An acre didn’t seem very big 20 years ago but now the overgrown “back forty” is out of control.
Solution: Hire a gardener to help with the overwhelming parts of the yard.
Problem: The house is too large to care for – A four bedroom house over 2,000 square feet seemed like a dream home when it was new, now it’s just become a burden to clean.
Solution: Hire a cleaning service to help out with the main areas of the home.
Okay, so many of my solutions so far require spending money. Thankfully, my parents are in a situation where they can afford help – the problem is if they are willing to part with some of their income to improve their quality of life. I’d offer my own help, but honestly their house and yard are too much for even me to handle.
Not all of my solutions require money, however. One such problem requires elimination.
Problem: New pet is causing havoc around the house.
Solution: Sorry, Charlie, but that pet needs to go. I know, I sound cruel, but the truth is they selected a large, energy-filled breed and it’s been knocking my mom down on a daily basis. (It stands over 5 feet 2 inches on it’s hind legs and is not full grown yet). My parents are too old to train it themselves and they really don’t have the patience for it. That poor beast would be happier in the long run in a younger couple’s home. If I had a yard, I’d take it home myself. But there’s no way it could live in a 2-bedroom apartment with 3 cats.
With that said, offering a list of possible vendors in a non-threatening way will hopefully give them the ability to choose and feel in control of the situation (while I subtly suggest other ideas that will help them out!)
This is also a good time to discuss end of life events (death, obviously) and their last will and testament. We’ve not had this conversation, but since I may have to assist them with these issues in the near future, now is also a good time to discuss this with them. Asking an outside vendor might also mitigate any tension they might have about sharing the nitty-gritty details and LegalZoom reviews wills making it easier to swallow.
The blur between parent and child eventually gets fuzzy as parents get older and it’s hard to navigate when it’s time to call the shots. I know my parents aren’t at that point yet, but I feel it coming and I need to begin preparing myself for it. I just hope I don’t get into a struggle of wills.
Do your parents need assistance? Are they willing to let you help? Have you sat down and made some plans together? If you have experience with this, share what has worked for you.