Many of us are thrown into making long-term care or health care decisions by an emergency. Your Mom falls and breaks her hip, or you get a call that Dad is wandering, sometimes aimlessly, and the neighbors are afraid that he’ll wander off. These events are heartbreaking and, often, budget-busting. When your parents’ doctor tells you “we need to know where you want your mother to be transferred to for her long-term rehabilitation” and gives you four hours to decide, you have a problem. And this scenario plays out everyday.

Instead of being thrown into the fire, you can do what we did. Or, at least, what we’re trying to do. Look ahead, to a time when your mother might need to have some assistance or, gasp, to be in a nursing home. So we told Mom that we were going to have someone come to the house to “visit” with us and talk about what we needed to know.

“What for? I’m not going to sign anything.” Strike One. Mom was more than a little defensive. I had to talk to her and reassure her, more than once, that no one was trying to take her house, or send her to a nursing home.

We anticipated this answer from her. “No mom, we don’t have to sign anything.” We wanted her to know that we were trying to help, not trying to control. About a week before this time, my aunt was rushed to the hospital. It seems that she fell. She lives alone, uses a walker , and is in her eighties. Strikingly similar to Mom. It seems her niece, who frequently came by to visit her, found her one morning sitting on the floor of her kitchen.

“What are you doing?”

“Resting” responded a clearly incoherent Aunt Julie.

It turns out she landed there about twelve hours earlier, broke several ribs, contracted pneumonia from sitting on the cold floor, and on and on. It was really heart-breaking to hear.

So I said to my mom, “It’s too bad about Julie.” And I let it go right there. Silence can be deafening. She said “Oh, I know,” and she let it drop. Strike Two. I wondered whether or not I should keep pushing. I mean, I already had two strikes.

“Well Mom, we’re having someone here to visit. You don’t have to sign anything, and we’re not going to make you do anything. We just want to see what’s available for you. We care about you.”

“Well. . .Okay” she said.

We were glad to have things moving in the right direction. We don’t have all the answers, but by being just a little bit insistent, we’ve got things going.

Keep taking those steps with your parents. Nudge them when they need it. Keep them moving in the right direction, but be sure they know that you are walking right there with them.

Thank you to all who have shared your stories with us. Let us hear your comments.