The Life Transition Blog

Aging Parent Issues: I Won’t Be A Burden

There seem to be two kinds of aging parents - those who are determined never to be a burden on their families, and those who are in denial about the reality that their changing condition and ability places upon those who love them. This isn't a value judgment; it just seems to be the way it is. And it doesn't mean that one type of parent is easier for their adult children to deal with either. Sometimes economic realities limit options, but the parent who plans ahead usually has more options than one who doesn't. Let's explore the parent who "won't be a burden". Does this stance actually prevent what they are hoping to avoid?

The parent who fears being a burden is the parent who plans ahead for his or her old age. He usually has taken care of having his affairs in order and has written a will, power of attorney, health care proxy, and so on. She might even have one place where all of her important papers are kept, including lists of her medications, her doctors, and other important phone numbers. This parent has often entered into an arrangement for a prepaid funeral, and might have purchased long term care insurance years ago, or moved to a continuing care retirement community (life care community). Yes, this parent has typically taken much of the financial and decision-making burden off of her children, and most adult children will agree that this is appreciated.

But is it possible that the parent who is determined never to become a burden has actually cheated himself out of some meaningful experiences with his kids? Might this mother and grandmother one day regret that she has done such a good job putting all the plans in place that her kids don't have "reasons" to come around, and so they don't come very often? Is there a positive benefit that comes from adult children participating in their parent's later years?

Like so much else in life, it's all about balance. Perhaps the ideal situation is when your parents have put the pieces in place so that they won't be a financial burden, but they have shared with you the details about the kind of life they hope to lead under different circumstances and allowed you to help them think through some of these often difficult situations in advance. Later, when their health or memory begin to fail, the time you spend with your Mom or Dad can be about keeping them company, making them comfortable, and allowing them to participate to the extent that they can in your life and your children's lives. Think about it. Don't let your parents do such a good job of not being a burden that you forget that they need you on an emotional level. Don't thank them for all of their planning and preparation by being a stranger. Thank them for making your caregiving job so much easier through your presence and emotional support.
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