There is something called the 40-70 rule. If you are age 40 and your parents are age 70, you should be having these conversations now…None of us can foresee the future, but we can be prepared —Dale C. Carter, American author, speaker and coach, in Transitioning Your Aging Parent: A 5 step Guide Through Crisis & Change.
The very practical and specific book by Dale C. Carter called Transitioning your Aging Parent: A 5 step guide through crisis & Change, is a God-send for children who are bewildered by circumstances and challenges surrounding the aging of their parents. The book will be incredibly helpful to adult children who have no idea where to turn and feel overwhelmed, unorganized and ignorant concerning what steps to take next. In his advance review quote, Steve Gurney, publisher of the Guide to Retirement Living Sourcebook, refers to this small book as an “invaluable life raft.”
Author Carter, while successfully dealing with her own mom’s transition from living independently to retirement community residency, developed the ADAPT method to guide others through the challenging process. The A in ADAPT stands for “Assess,” the D for “discuss,” the second A for “as a family,” the P for “plan,” and the final T for “transition.”
Weekly column length does not allow for an in-depth explanation of every letter and, if I tried, it would just end up being a copy of the book itself, which is less than 60 pages. It is a quick read, with very clear practical and valuable instructions. It helps you put a structure in place on which to construct a care-giving plan. The book also provides a list of resources, and an Excel template for organizing and developing a detailed plan.
So, let’s hit the high points. In the ASSESS phase, you ask open-ended questions and be silent. You “quiet yourself” in order to listen empathetically. You stay quiet and watch for body language and listen to tone of voice. You become a detached observer, in order to do the assessment work. You put your assumptions and beliefs aside. By observing and listening, writes Carter, you gain awareness of your parent’s life and concerns. You gain their trust. You’re not viewed as an adversary; you become a partner in their journey. When you and your parent both realize this, it is a turning point. “I recall the exact moment I felt this. In the midst of my mother’s crisis, I understood that not only did I need to help her, but I had to do it in a way that preserved her dignity and empowered her. . . at that moment, I could feel myself letting go of past perceptions and personal baggage, and turning my focus to the future.” The book contains many hints, tips and tutorings regarding exactly how exactly to assess.
At the end of this important first step, you should be able to know and to say, “I understand my parent’s situation and perspective at this point in time.”
In the “DISCUSS” section, you will learn about your parent’s wishes. With the help of family members, you’ll consider possible solutions to the challenges of your parents. After this, you’ll be able to confidently say “Given what I learned from listening to you, I believe these are some viable options to consider moving forward.”
Carter adds three very important words to the word discuss. They are “As a family.” That is a requirement easier said than done. However, Carter explains the important of this step in a persuasive and easy to agree with explanation that should move any half-way mature individual to get along with his/her siblings for the sake of the parents they love. Here is her take: Think about yourself and your dreams for your own children. One of the hopes for my children as I raised them was that they would have mutual respect for each other, grow up to be friends, and remain close. I did not have that with my only brother, but now I realized it would mean the world to my mother to have my brother and me working together in her best interest. It was neither easy nor natural for me. There were times when I had to step away from a conversation in order not to say something I would later regret. But I kept reminding myself “we both want what’s best for our mother.”
Carter writes that “the planning portion of a project consumes up to 60 percent of the total project time.” The fourth item, PLANNING, is very instructive. This section is where the majority of the practical resources are located. “You need,” writes Carter, “to walk away from the family meeting knowing who needs to do what, when it needs to happen, and why and how the various steps will occur.”
The last component of the acronym is TRANSITION – the actual change itself. It is, writes the author, “where the rubber meets the road.” The actual transition is the point at which all the observing, listening, striving to understand, research, negotiation, planning and buy-in pay off.” Remember, as much as you are trying to accomplish your parent’s wishes, they will still feel emotions of loss, anxiety, sadness and fear. This is huge change. Remain flexible and stay the course.
The ADAPT steps are sequential, and there is a discussion about the negative consequences of skipping one. To purchase the book and for more information, visit www.transitionagingparents.com.
Thanks for reading. Stay well. See you next week