I have had a few occasions when I have met the parent and families of those I coach. When I do, I enter with clarity that I am there to support my client and our work together, but I also hold in my mind my intention to ensure that the parent’s individuality is respected. To that end, I have written (for myself) a letter to my clients’ parent(s) that focuses on their care and how their autonomy is different from their independence.
Here is that letter:
I provide life coaching for adult children, spouses and family supporting parents and elders with significant aging issues or experiencing their parent’s end-of-life. The principle I follow is that quality of life and compassionate care for the senior is the top priority. I help them to support you. I understand that you probably do not want to be a burden on your children. You may want to keep your affairs private and you may be concerned that involving others in your affairs may leave you vulnerable and take away your choice. Know that the opposite is intended and that much of my work is about helping to discover and hear your choices.
On Autonomy and Independence
You have the right to manage your affairs as you see fit. Doing so is to be autonomous. Unfortunately, aging often brings with it a continual loss of independence. Being responsible often means planning for others to help you. You may believe it is impossible to plan for the unknown. In many respects I can agree, however it is possible to plan for continued autonomy. I believe the best way to maintain autonomy, and get the best out of your situation, is to make your wishes known. You do not need to involve your children, but you need to find someone you trust. There are many professionals with good skills and tools to help you with the many aspects of how you want your affairs managed.
When you make your wishes known, you can continue to be the decision maker. Regardless, I do not encourage or support your children to take your autonomy from you when you can make decisions for yourself.
Here are my general recommendations: start with people you trust. Discuss end-of-life early and what it means to you. Return to the discussion to allow time to be clear as to who will make decisions if you cannot. Make your wishes known as to what kind of decisions you would make. Put plans in place long before you need them and have discussions with your children, even if you think you have taken care of everything. Have patience with them as you always have as they learn to help.
Don’t worry about what your caregivers or family can handle. They likely can help and want to know what is needed. There should be no shame in needing help, yet many elderly people hide problems from those who care for them. It is ok to want to be stronger or to be afraid, but the biggest relief is usually available through the acceptance of aid from your family and other caregivers. As with planning, start early. Begin to give them responsibility and develop a dialog about future needs. You can stay autonomous even when accepting support, if you plan ahead and inform others of what you want.
© 2018 Rob Fellows, Parent Care Consulting
Rob Fellows is a member of Amava and the principal consultant at Parent Care Consulting where he provides education, guidance, and coaching about parent care for the benefit of the elder’s children, spouses, and family.
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