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Wisdom from our elders

Parents covering for each other worries adult child

Dear Grandpad:

Live Grand!

Wisdom from our elders

Dear GrandPad: My parents are in their 80s and I worry about their future even though they’ve been healthy. They still live in their home which we’ve made safer with upgrades, but they're stubborn about accepting help from anybody. They’re both readers and “word people.” Lately, my siblings and I have noticed them filling in words for each other quite a bit, which worries us. They’ve always done this some, but now it seems more frequent. The family will be together for Father’s Day so we’re wondering if we should tell them we’re concerned. – DE

Dear PS:

Dear DE: Many people like your parents do very well into their 80s but not everyone, so you have much to celebrate.

As for filling in words for each other, couples prompting one another is common and can represent a decades-long pattern of working as a team. They may be doing it more now because slower recall is part of normal aging, but unless it’s extreme I wouldn’t worry too much just based on that. A better gauge could be if they are having problems in other areas such as remembering to pay their bills or difficulties with step-by-step tasks like following recipes.

For now, instead of turning what should be a celebratory family day into a confrontation, just have fun. As time goes on you can enjoy regular conversations with them. Stay alert for areas of life that seem to worry them. If they resist personal topics, try asking about their friends who may be struggling with illness or the loss of a spouse. This approach can serve as an icebreaker that provides them with some distance before they talk about themselves.

With quiet, loving persistence, you’ll learn more about how they look at their future. You’ll gradually come to understand their priorities as they age, and you can offer help as needed if you do it carefully, keeping their preferences in mind as much as reality allows.

What we love to see are intergenerational conversations that encourage closeness. When that happens, older adults are more likely to open up about areas where they need help. As we so often say, treating older adults with respect for all that they have done and can still do is likely to foster a relationship where they will welcome your help when they need it.

We’re thinking, too, that a GrandPad could be helpful for them long-term, maybe even as a Father’s Day gift. Although there are tons of other features, we’re thinking here that as “word people” they’d especially enjoy the included crossword puzzle feature. No need to worry about tiny squares and minuscule print for clues, these are easy on the eyes but challenging and fun. Doing crosswords can do more than entertain, though. Working them has been shown to help aging adults maintain their memories. 

As far as your worry about them covering for each other, keep an eye on it, but remember to appreciate all their strengths, as well. Enjoy your Father’s Day gathering!


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