Having “The Talk” with your Parents

If/when your parents sat you down to discuss the facts of life, it was probably pretty awkward.  Turnabout is no fun either.  I’m afraid that my siblings and I have to have an uncomfortable talk with my parents, and I am not looking forward to it at all.  If you have any advice, I would love to hear it.

My parents are approaching their 80s.  They’ve been relatively healthy and independent, but are definitely showing signs of age.  My mom was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, has been on oxygen and medication, and seems to be ok.  She’s much less energetic than she used to be.  Growing up, my dad was always overweight.  When he got up above 300 pounds, he decided to get gastric bypass surgery.  He looked great and weighed less than me for the first time in my life, getting down to about 200 pounds or so.

About 3 years ago, he was trying to be active, riding an adult sized 3-wheel bike (really a tricycle) and tipped over, breaking his hip.  I was very concerned when I wrote about it 3 years ago.  As a result of that break, one leg is about an inch or two shorter than the other, so he has to have special shoes.  Obviously he couldn’t exercise and gained back a lot of weight.  On a recent trip to the grocery store, I was surprised that he rode around the store in a motorized scooter.

I didn’t realize how hard it was for him to move.  I invited my parents to attend my son’s baptism last weekend.  They agreed to come, but it’s not just their physical health that is suffering.  I invited them to stay our house–they live about 4 hours away and have been to my house several times, but they wanted a bit more privacy and got a hotel in Orem, Utah instead.  They tried to check in, but it was too early and they wanted to see my sister who lives in Bountiful.  My dad knew that University Avenue runs into University Parkway which takes you to the freeway.  That’s true if you’re heading south, but my dad was heading north.  The hotel told him to turn right, but since he was heading the wrong direction, he ended up getting on I-80 (rather than I-15) and drove all the way to Park City before he realized his mistake (a drive of about an hour!)  He eventually made it to Bountiful, but my sister was quite worried wondering where they were.  To make matters worse, they got lost on the return trip from Bountiful to Orem, and called 911 three times because they couldn’t find the hotel that they had previously found in Orem.  The police were kind and finally escorted them.

The next morning, my phone rang at 7 am, waking me up.  I didn’t get to the phone in time and he didn’t leave a message.  A few minutes later, he called back telling me he was lost trying to find my house.  Even though he was close, it took me 25 minutes to talk him through how to find my house.  I couldn’t believe how difficult it was for him to understand.  When he got here, he told me about his adventure to Park City the night before.  Then he told me that his credit card was frozen by his bank.  Apparently he has been filling out “surveys” for free products–you just have to pay for shipping!  His credit card had charges from Iceland, Germany, and other places, and I’m glad the bank froze his credit card to prevent more fraud.

He’s become one of those old people susceptible to scams.  It blows my mind because he always spotted them before.  I was greatly alarmed to see how poorly his decision-making was.  My sister told me that I shouldn’t have invited them to the baptism–I now understand that he is much worse than I realized.  She was right.  I’m not inviting them to my house anymore, but will try to visit them more often than I have in the past.  Walking up the 3 steps to my house was a chore for him.  His mobility is much more limited than I realized.

My dad and I have always had a rocky relationship.  I couldn’t wait to move out of the house as a teenager because he was not the most pleasant person to live with (and I don’t know how my mom has done it for 50 years!)  People talk about how hard it is to live the rules on an LDS mission, but I felt so free!  I would gladly have my mother live with us, but even in the best of circumstances, my dad is unbearable to live with. I never stay at their house when I visit because I know that we will fight.  Staying in a hotel or friend’s house is much better for our relationship.

I know they need help.  I told him to quit filling out these stupid surveys, and just saw that he filled out another one of Facebook for a free iPad.  I know we need to have a talk with my parents.  My siblings and I discussed getting power of attorney to help them with finances, health care, and end of life issues, but I do not look forward to this conversation one bit.  I fear they forget if they have taken medication and may take it twice or not at all.  I wish someone lived closer to them, but they are the ones who moved from us to take advantage of the nicer weather in St. George.  (You don’t shovel heat!)  Do you have any advice for me?


2 comments on “Having “The Talk” with your Parents

  1. I recently read the book “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande that helped me think about a lot of these issues and how they will arise with my own parents in years to come. It was a fairly quick read and I thought it was very good.

  2. We had the talk with my parents and it went amazingly well. My parents even admitted they knew they had memory problems. They were very open to letting us help them, and my dad was emotional, knowing that we were concerned about him. Honestly it went way better than I expected.

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