Your first time behind the wheel? Mine was memorable, but sadly for all the wrong reasons. It involved an errant fire hydrant, a twisted fender on the family station wagon, and two burly firemen who showed up at the scene of my unfortunate accident. Thankfully, there were no major injuries that day (only minor bruising to my teenage ego). My father, a young man then, was firm but loving as he took the keys away from me, insisting that I was “not ready.”
I was reminded of this episode recently when having a similar discussion with my father, now aged 75 and suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. There had been several “incidents” already, and while we were lucky on those occasions, the writing was now clearly on the wall. Though broken-hearted, we knew it was time to have “the talk” about car keys. If you have elderly parents, you may already be familiar with these difficult conversations. No doubt about it, it’s tough. But here are some things to keep in mind as you enter this new stage of life.
What I’ve learned…
- Be attentive to signs of deficits not improved over time – trust your instincts
- Ask M&D (Mom & Dad) to introduce you to their doctors – join them on an appointment
- If not already done, encourage M&D to sign legal documents (Healthcare Powers Of Attorney and HIPAA Releases) allowing you to be medically informed, and to make decisions should they be unable
- Don’t wait to start a conversation, or series of conversations that may need to evolve over time; it’s often easier before a decline accelerates
- Whatever the dangers (e.g. driving, living alone or with too many stairs, loss of memory), gather your facts – and be specific, avoid “you’re just too old to drive”
- Be curious about the mail. Act on uncharacteristic piles of unpaid bills
- Take a look in the fridge. Smell ok? Fresh food to eat?
- Ask about “important papers”, like insurance policies and cards and car titles. Whether they have signed Powers of Attorney and Last Wills; If M&D bank online, where are their user names and passwords
- Don’t go it alone – enlist the help of professionals
- Be patient with M&D and also with yourself – remember, this is hard
So even if your parents still coast along life’s highways at regulation speed, hard conversations may be on the horizon. If you need more specifics or resources on any of the above, or just need a sounding board, or if you have recently lost a loved one and need assistance, please do reach out – we are here to help.
Till next time, stay safe and be well,