QUESTION: My mom has been extremely healthy and active all of her life. But I’ve noticed that, at 68, she is starting to slow down. I worry that she hasn’t noticed any difference since her aging has been very slow. I don’t know if her affairs are in order and I’m having trouble bringing up the subject. Am I overstepping my boundaries with my concerns? If not, how do I bring up this delicate subject without alienating my mother? — Maria
DEAR MARIA: Putting your mother’s affairs in order is most definitely within your boundaries both as a daughter and as a future caregiver. While the discussion may feel uncomfortable, now is the time to discuss the possibilities and probabilities. Always provide information and suggestions in a gentle, kind way. Let your mother know you have her best interests at heart and want to help her pave the way for a fruitful second half of life. Begin by making a list of your main concerns: driving limitations, health issues, housing, cost of living and long-term care, and most important, end of life and funeral arrangements. Making all of these preparations may be daunting to you as well. Remember there is help. Local social service agencies such as Meals on Wheels offer sustainable services to the elderly in their communities. As the baby boomers age, more and more financial, legal and other services are going to be offered to assist the elderly. The need will be great. At the heart of the issue is the need to remain independent. Assure your mother that you understand this and that you are in this for the long run. Together, you can put together a plan that meets her physical, psychological and emotional needs. And your success provides a blueprint for your children when your time arrives.
Patricia Smith is a certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist with 20 years of training experience. As founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project© (www.compassionfatigue.org), the outreach division of Healthy Caregiving, LLC, she writes, speaks and facilities workshops nationwide in service of those who care for others. She has authored several books including To Weep for a Stranger: Compassion Fatigue in Caregiving, which is available at www.healthycaregiving.comor Amazon.com.