Real Life

When It's Time to Have "The Talk...” and Not About the Birds and Bees

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If you’ve ever had to answer the “where do babies come from” question, you know it’s not exactly an easy conversation. You want to handle it both accurately and in a way that lets your child know that you are a safe and good source of information. Plus there’s the chance that you can screw it up and scar the kid for life. No pressure.

But there’s another conversation that can be as equally charged, if not even more so. It is “The Talk” that needs to happen when your parents are aging. Having a plan to deal with the reality that things may need to change for your parents — and your family — is tough to face but critically important.

Speaking from experience

My mom is in her nineties, and though I knew I needed to have The Talk with her for many years, I avoided it like a gazelle steers clear of a lion. I knew it wasn’t going to go well, and putting it off seemed like an easier road to take. The only problem was the road didn’t lead anywhere. Eventually I needed to look the lion right in the eyes and risk being dinner.

For me, my sister was the catalyst to dealing with it all. And deal we did. We had to face some harsh and uncomfortable truths. It wasn’t easy. But now we are through it, and with the experience behind me, I have more clarity about it all. I may even have a little wisdom on the subject.

The reality is, The Talk should have taken place much earlier than it did, and it would almost certainly have been a less painful experience if it had. With that understanding, I am now The Talk cheerleader for my friends and family who are in the same season of life.

Here’s the bottom line: You need to get together and talk before you find yourself needing to make decisions in the midst of a crisis or before options dwindle because you’re “ignoring the lion.”

Getting older is a pretty popular thing these days

Handling the aging population is big business — assisted living facilities and nursing homes continue to burgeon all over. People are living longer, and services to provide for seniors continue to evolve. But if you’re in “gazelle mode” and are afraid to say out loud, “Mom/Dad, we should talk about what the future might bring and make sure we know what you want and that we’re ready for it,” you may miss out on some of those options.

Until we started The Talk in our family, I didn’t even know of an option that was available: supportive living. Unlike assisted living, where when your money runs out you are shown the door (what must that be like to be in the twilight of your life and be “evicted”?), with supportive living, when the senior’s money runs out, they can get on Medicaid and continue living in the same place. Learning this was a huge relief for our family because we knew my mom could afford some but not many years on her own finances.

The Talk brings up plenty of questions, and a great way to get them answered is to find a quality lawyer who specializes in elder care. ARAG Legal Insurance offers a lot of support in the area of caregiving and planning, and had I known then of such an affordable way to find resources and support, I know my family’s personal journey would have been better. Instead of dodging reality, I could have been informed and prepared. Few of us have to face these kinds of decisions multiple times, so having experts to help us better understand our options and move forward with peace of mind can be a game changer.

So...if you haven’t had The Talk...have it. If you’ve got siblings, get together and have a Pre-Talk so that you can address some things together before Mom/Dad is involved. The last thing they’ll want to hear is their children bickering about “who’s gonna take Mom??” If you can smooth out some rough patches before you “face the lion,” all the better.

And make sure to know what you’re talking about. Don’t assume. Plan for multiple options, as life is never simple. Bring in some professional support to help you understand the choices available and how they could play out in your world. Once your family has worked through it all and decided what is best, you will feel a significant burden lifted off of your shoulders — as well as that of your parents’. After all, don’t they deserve your intentional care? They were the ones who had to have The Talk of the birds and the bees with make time to have The Other Talk with them. You will all be the better for it.

Guest post by Lisa Ancona-Roach, The Juggle Struggle

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