Continue Reading Advice from the Mouths of Babes?" />

Advice from the Mouths of Babes?

by Louis on November 21, 2007

Father of the Bride is one of my favorite movies. Steve Martin plays the dad. His daughter is just home from a European tour. It is clear these two have that special relationship reserved for loving dads and little girls. At dinner her first night home she announces plans to marry someone she met on her trip. Steve Martin rubs his eyes. We see through his blur. He sees an eight year old with a squeaky voice. The image renders the announcement completely ridiculous. The set up is priceless. We know just how he feels.

A few folks stayed to ask questions after a presentation I gave in a local National Aging in Place Week program recently. Both of our events were full this year. The crowd was both older and younger folks. Some of the folks seemed almost desperate for information. The older folks who stayed asked good questions about how to find professionals, where to put grab bars, and similar details. These folks were there to get information. They got enough to get a good start on getting more specifics and making decisions. Now they were ready to go to the next step. Getting it done.

The questions asked by the younger folks were tougher. Their questions were in the spirit of National Aging in Place Week. The week was selected to stimulate family discussion of these issues over the holidays. If we don’t talk about it, chances of being well prepared are very slim. Togetherness at the holidays are a good time to get started.

The younger folks who stayed to ask me questions were focused on one thing: How to get their parents to listen to them and take action on this issue?

I don’t claim to have answers. I think many parents react to advice from their kids in the same way Steve Martin reacted to the news of his daughter’s engagement. Complete inability to comprehend. Just doesn’t make sense. An eight year old giving me advice? If your folks rub their eyes and see the blur like Steve Martin they certainly aren’t going to act on your advice.

One alternative is to get a third party in the mix. Someone who specializes in these issues may have a better chance reaching your folks. For one thing, they do it all the time. They have techniques for opening and leading the discussion. They are neutral and arms length. They will have answers where you just have ideas. There is value in experience. It is convincing.

The third party also releases you to share the project with your parents or loved ones. Let the outsider absorb the heat, answer the tough questions and deliver the hard news. You can range between an observer, a sounding board, and an enthusiastic or cautious partner. Pay attention to your parent’s reaction. Their attitude may change over time. They may act like the whole things was their idea. Go with the flow. Adjust your role as things progress. Be supportive. Have fun.

Caution: I encourage you to make every effort to have as many decision influencers at the initial meeting as possible. I have rarely seen a successful project when family members start out of phase with each other.

No Guarantee. There are good reasons this is not foolproof. The group may not be ‘simpatico’. There is a lot of personality and emotion in these issues. The consultant’s personality needs to be a good match for the family. The consultant may have photos your family does not find appealing. Your folks may not be ready. Your parent’s home may not be a good candidate. This may not be the solution for them. Others influencing the situation may give mixed messages that come from mixed feelings. This may be a sibling who is not available or does not jump on the bandwagon or a neighbor or friend who is not present. They may harbor additional and different reasons to resist.

Love and concern are wonderful but they may not be enough of the right stuff to influence behavior. Often there is too much (wonderful) history for children and parents to work together on issues so full of feelings. Don’t be discouraged, just take a different tack. Check out resources in your community before you begin the discussion. Be ready with more than one path. Some people are more willing to pick ‘a’ or ‘b’ than ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Be ready for this to be harder than you think it should be. You may never know the full reasons things do not move forward.

Remember this is about their health and happiness, not about how you react to their initial response. The holidays are here. Let the discussion begin.

P. S. I want to thank Chuck Kaufman and the whole Montgomery County Maryland National Aging in Place Week Council and event committee. Wonderful group who pulled off a major event. We had fun, too!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Peter Durkson November 29, 2007 at 6:59 am

Aloha Louis,
I admire and enjoy your blog!
Many people in our community including builders, county officials and homeowners are familiar with terms like “senior-friendly” “accessibility” “aging-in-place” etc,etc. Do you know of any glossaries of such words and phrases? We’re trying to create a glossary/booklet in an effort to educate our community and introduce some “uniform” use of these terms. Thank you!
Peter http://www.lifespanhomes.ocm


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: