I remember my parents playing bridge with several other couples. I remember flying to California to visit my grandparents. I remember celebrating new babies born to families in the neighborhood. But I have absolutely no recollection of anyone talking about caring for aging family members. While I think now it's logical that those conversations existed - to some extent - I know they weren't part of our dinner table conversations.

Fast forward. My 101-year-old grandmother is receiving excellent care in a permanent skilled room about 100 miles from me. Visits to her are filled with recollections from the past, updates on my work and social activities, and reading cards to her she's received from her nieces in South Dakota and California.

My octogenarian parents, however, are another matter altogether. While I have succeeded in having them prepare their advance directives (yay!), the current picture is more murky. Should they continue to live on their own, especially since Mom suffered a stroke a few months ago and Dad doesn't/won't participate in daily household responsibilities? Perhaps not, but moving them to the desert in New Mexico (Mom's wish, definitely not Dad's) is not an option. Moving them to a continuing care retirement community (Dad's wish if Mom goes with him, definitely not Mom's wish) also doesn't seem to be an option. Moving them closer to me in Raleigh also seems unlikely, as Mom does not want to drive in Big City Traffic or be a burden to me and my husband.

What has worked for us is periodic conversations about THEM. Planting the seeds. Laying the groundwork. Acknowledging the ultimate decision may not be pretty to them, but their safety and well-being are my primary concern, even if their primary concern is their freedom and not causing more "work" for me.

Start the conversations. Research caregiving options in your own community. Continue the conversations. And, above all, love them and ensure that comes through in your conversations.

--Anonymous