Mother’s Day is approaching. How are you planning to celebrate Mom this year?
Flowers always are a safe bet. Perhaps you and your siblings could create a photo album enjoying years of gatherings. Maybe you could take your whole family out to brunch, or have a spa day with her.
Best yet, offer Mom the most meaningful gift of all – two conversations about her future. First, what plans does she have for herself? Second, what role does she foresee for you to help her?
These are big, scary topics. Ask gently, directly, and openly, so that her thoughts flow free.
AARP offers help
AARP has published an interactive video about starting these hard conversations, helping you to broach subjects such as:
· Where do you keep your important documents?
· Have you thought about where you’d like to live if something were to happen to you?
As you will see in AARP’s video, starting these conversations can be tricky. Don’t pounce on Mom with these chats coming out of nowhere. Don’t instruct her, or present your presumptive research, or usurp Mom’s role as the parent.
What does Mom want for herself?
Ask Mom what she wants as she ages. What does she believe is best for her when she is physically frail? What will make her happy when she suffers cognitive decline and can’t handle her own affairs?
Chances are, Mom has no plan for assisted living options. She probably doesn’t have a list of her digital accounts and passwords, either. Mom, at age 77, likely considers herself middle-aged, and thinks about her “senior” years once in a while, in a far-off, sort of abstract way.
You may be frustrated by Mom’s responses, but respect her right to make – or not make – choices. You will not succeed in helping her by cornering her or catching her off guard. Put yourself in her shoes for a moment. How would you react if your teenager suddenly appointed herself the master of your destiny, poured herself a cup of coffee and demanded to discuss your next forty years and what she is going to do with you? Ponder how you can send the message to Mom that she is your hero, even when you’re asking about her health, or her less than bountiful savings.
What does Mom want for you?
Remember that this is not just about Mom; this is about you and your Mom. What really makes Mom smile on Mother’s Day is not what you get her, but your relationship with her.
Is Mom anticipating that you have a role in her future care? What does that look like for her – and for you? Does Mom assume that she will move in with you when she no longer can live alone? Are you willing and able to be her 24/7 caregiver? Has Mom considered that she will need help with her Activities of Daily Living such as feeding herself, bathing, dressing, and more? Does she really want you to change her adult diapers? Do you?
Some families speak about these things easily. Others discuss the weather. No matter your historical conversational patterns, find your openings. Plan to have positive, productive, continuing talks. Your gift is not having all of the answers to your Mom’s future. It is opening the pathways to having the discussions with her.