Exactly how to have the conversation

StartFragmentPenny is the CFO and Managing Director of the Jewish Pavilion and assists in answering calls to our Orlando Senior Help Desk information and referral line.


There are things we just don't want to know about, talk about or do. And then we have no choice. I have been helping an Orlando Senior Help Desk caller who is in a difficult position. He recently said, “I don't want to do this” and I knew just what he meant. He will do “this” of course. He will give up his personal life for a period of time, put his job on hold, stay hundreds of miles from home, re-arrange his parents lives, clean out the home he has been begging them to clean out for years, make arrangements to sell that home and do all that goes along with that, help them move into a facility that will offer them a safe environment and hopefully allow them to stay together, make legal arrangements that should have been done decades ago. He will make medical decisions about things he knows very little about – certainly not enough to have him ever feel comfortable with his decisions, and he will question and doubt every single move. Eventually, there will be final arrangements to be made. Although he is very relieved that those decisions don't have to be made this week, he fears he has little idea what they will be. He will do all of this with the understanding that his mother's Alzheimer makes her unable to be left alone or leave the house, and that she is completely unaware of the situation. He is cognizant of the fact that no matter what he does at this point, he believes it will irreparably damage his relationship with his father who, although recently hospitalized, still believes he can manage it all on his own.

Any one of the challenges he is about to face is a full time job. He will have to learn about the different types of insurance that his parents have, because they haven't spoken about it. He will spend hours and hours on the phone having to prove who he is, send paperwork in, then try and get a ton of information because he isn't currently on their accounts. Will their coverage provide for the extensive care they are going to need? Do they have long-term care insurance? He will have to figure out which bills have been paid and which haven't, and he doesn't have access to his parents email, passwords, or bank account because they never got to that. He will have to be a real estate specialist to figure out what to do about his family home and property. He will have to go through all of his parents personal possessions, and like most, they have not been fond of disposing of things for the last 20 or 30 years. He must make decisions about what to do with those possessions. What is most valuable to them personally? What has resale value? Who is going to sell those things for him? How is he going to clear and move all that no longer has value? Were there things that were supposed to be earmarked for family and friends? Who is going to help? Who is going to pay for it all? What happens when the inevitable occurs? Are there funeral arrangements? Is there a will or a trust? Where is the key to the safe deposit box, or where would his parents keep important documents? Is he listed on the safe deposit box, even if he has the key? He has tried to have the conversation with his parents multiple times to no avail.

Are you tired yet? It's exhausting just thinking about it. He knew that the Orlando Senior Help Desk could help him. We are working to provide answers to all of the challenges he is facing. That's what we do. We provide the references, resources and a caring ear for those facing changes is senior circumstances. Transitioning is never easy, but he is thankful he has help.

This situation would have been much different if he and his parents communicated more effectively. It is very clear there is a lot of love there, but now there is also anger and pain. It is unfortunate. Trying to have the conversation is hard enough, but succeeding is even harder. If you are an adult child, print out this article and hand it or send it to your parents with a love note that says, “I love you, I care about you, I am concerned about both of our futures. Can we talk about some difficult things please?” If you are a parent, please send this to your child or children with a note that says, “I love you. I don't want this to happen to you. I don't want you to have to give up your life and your sanity for me. Let's talk.”

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