Preserve Your Parents’ Legacy!

David Solie, in his book “How to say it to Seniors” reminds us that the two most important things to our elder parents are maintaining control of their lives and preserving their legacy. Our parents want to know how they will be remembered by their children and grandchildren. It’s important that we help them do that.

In the last few months that my father was alive I visited him at the rehab. center where he was trying to cope with Parkinson’s disease. He had lost the ability to walk and swallow but could still talk clearly. We would sit together every Wednesday afternoon and just talk. It was during these meetings that I really began to understand who he was. He told me of his life as the son of a Methodist Minister, having to move from town to town every few years as his father’s church assignments changed. He informed me that he never went with his parents to a department store to buy clothes. All his clothes were donated by members of the church. They would dump their cast offs in a barrel and he and his sisters would sort through them to add to their wardrobe.

If we did not have this time together I never would have really understood what his life was like and why he cherished every thing he had so much. Unfortunately I did not record these conversations. It would have been so valuable to share them with our daughter so she could understand her grandfather’s life.

That is why I want to advise you strongly to make the effort to sit down with your parents and record their history. I call it, creating a digital biography. Have you ever asked them how they met and decided to get married? Do you know what growing up was like for them? What was their relationship with their parents and their siblings like? Did they go through the Great Depression or World War II?

It is so easy now to record these conversations. It’s as simple as getting an old cassette tape record with a microphone. Just turn it on and start talking. But if you really want to do it right and you have a video camera, an IPad 2 or an IPhone 4 or 4S, you can record them in HD stereo. Don’t make it too complicated but just make the effort to preserve their legacy. Ten years from now you will be very glad you did.

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6 thoughts on “Preserve Your Parents’ Legacy!

  1. My mother is 87 and my dad is 90 years old. You have captured the reality of the aging parent’s need to be heard. It is often the practical things that I take time for rather than taking time to just listen. It is natural for me as a Registered Nurse to tend to doctor visits, medications, nutrition and grocery shopping, falls prevention and many activities of daily living. Time is often a factor. Your post has renewed my awareness of the importance of taking the time to listen with a true desire to hear their elderly heart’s desire. Thank you. Morninglory

  2. Can anyone offer me some advice. 3 years ago my husband and I moved my aging parents in with us. My mother has respiratory disease and we thought that they needed some support. Now it seems my marriage is falling apart with the stress of it all. He says he can’t cope with living in what feels to him a nursing home environment. My mother has been quite manipulative at times and now his patience is all but worn out. I really don’t know what to do to sort this out while keeping everyone happy. We have two young children and it is now having an effect on their lives too.
    Thank you in advance for any help you can give.

    • Jo,

      Unfortunately your situation is very much like a number of women I talk to. As the adult daughter you are expected to take care of your parents, your husband and your young children, a task which is almost impossible to do.

      You need to reach out and get support. Do you have any siblings? Can they support you? Do you have close friends you can reach out to? or a minister, Rabbi or Priest? It is important at this point to consider if it is in the best interest of your parents and your family if they stay with you. It sounds like your husband is at the breaking point.

      if you have siblings it would be very valuable to have a family meeting to discuss alternatives to the current situation. What is your parents financial situation? If it is possible you might consider other living arrangements for them. If Dad is still healthy an independent living retirement community might be best. If your parents need more support you should look into assisted living residences in your area.

      No matter what the outcome, it is time to look carefully at the situation, discuss it with your family and consider alternatives to the present setup. It certainly is clear that it’s not working for your family and you.

      If you’d like to discuss this in more detail with me please let me know. I’ll help any way I can.

    • Jo, Thanks for sharing the pain and challenges you and your family are facing. Persons with chronic respiratory disease tend to become somewhat demanding and quick tempered. In the elderly couple, there is usually some longstanding patterns of behavior between them which they bring with them to their child’s home. These patterns which worked for the two of them can become intrusive for the entire family. You are right about the demands taking a toll on the family dynamics. It can often help for you to have some time alone with your husband, but may feel pinned down by the caregiver role. You may contact your local community college department of health occupations to see if there are senior level student nurses, medical assistants, or nurse assistants who would like to work part-time in your home. The college can provide names of recent students who have become certified. Their instructor will be a great resource. Look online, contact the health department and inquire from their physician for local elder resources. Meals on Wheels can save hours of cooking. Look for an Adult Day Care in your area. The time away from your home can be an entertaining diversion and give them something to talk about besides their ailments. Warm Regards, Lee

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