10 resolutions for dealing with aging parents
It’s a whole new ballgame when our parents enter their 80s, and it’s easy to fall into bad habits when we’re with them. In 2019 I resolve to:
- Stop “dealing” with them: Language matters, and if I’m not careful, Mom will think I consider her a burden, which is not the case.
- Walk in their shoes: Imagine you’ve lost your spouse or home or driving privileges – or all three. Would you be sad now and then? Angry? Confused? I resolve to work on my empathy muscles in 2019.
- Consider they might be right: My dad made it to 87 without organic kale juice every morning, so I need to stop sniping about his hot dogs and Pop-Tarts. And I resolve to drop off Dortmunder 12-packs now and then.
- Start with gratitude: When I find myself snapping, I resolve to remember talking to friends who have lost a parent. AND think back on what my folks have done for me. AND think ahead 10 years.
- Let them roam: If you haven't noticed, our parents don’t like to be handled. I resolve to hover nearby, close enough to catch them, but hands off until necessary.
- Stop fighting Fox: If you’re not politically aligned with Mom or Dad, stop thinking your conversion therapy just needs more time or volume. Change the subject or leave the room if you can’t hold your tongue.
- Release the purse strings: Keeping Mom in the home you grew up in should not be your retirement plan. If she's home, make sure someone’s cutting her lawn and cleaning her house, and that she gets to the salon, movies and restaurants. It’s how Dad would have wanted the money they earned and saved to be used.
- Remember always – dignity first: In 2019 I resolve to respect my parents’ privacy, understand their plight, consider their feelings, and never – ever – talk to them as if I’m THEIR parent.
- See or call them every week or every day: This year I resolve to put it in my calendar like a staff meeting or golf lesson. There is no expression of love and gratitude like presence and attention.
- Empower them: Our parents are superheroes who sometimes just need a renewed sense of purpose. I resolve to encourage them to get out, connect with old friends, meet new ones, volunteer, and find a reason to get up every morning to truly thrive as they age.
Make (and keep) your own list of resolutions, and I guarantee your parents will never forget 2019. And if you see MY mom and dad around town, ask them how I’m doing with my list.
Mike Nock is the founder of Thrive Westshore (thrivewestshore.com), which enhances the lives of retirees living at home. Previously he was founding director of an entrepreneurship program at Baldwin-Wallace University, and co-founder of Nock Inc, which for 23 years published customized nightly newsletters for institutional portfolio managers. Mr. Nock is a graduate of Williams College and St. Ignatius High School, and lives in Bay Village with his wife and two teens.