My parents are getting older and more annoying. They won’t listen to me anymore and it’s really frustrating. How can I let them know they need my help, even if they don’t want it?—Geoff
Everything—every single thing—about watching your mom and dad age is difficult. Even noticing the texture of their skin change, or the way they move around, can do a number on the back of your throat or the pit of your stomach. It’s hard to be rational, emotionally neutral or a non-irritated jag when you’re just trying to make life easier on them, I know. But I think you’re doing it really wrong.
Pat Irwin, a Certified Senior Advisor and the founder of ElderCareCanada, says that in order to help, you need to do research and have the right timing. So first, physically or mentally “walk your parents through their day, and their week, and their month, to see what’s working and what isn’t,” like, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and getting where they need to go. “Compare notes subtly with family and friends,” Irwin says. When you know what they need, try HelpsHere.com—it’s a directory of services for seniors in Toronto that offers meal delivery, home care, community support, health resources, and recreation—to be ready with specific ideas.
A good way into the conversation—even if your parents are getting old-ish but are still more active and interesting than you, like my folks—is to make a binder of all of your emergency information: a list of medications and health issues; doctor names; photocopies of ID cards; the location of your will and whatever else. Give it to your parents “just in case,” and say that you want the same thing from them, “just in case.” Most adult children are totally unprepared for situations where they’d have to step in, so ask your mom and dad to help you out (and agree to update your binders regularly, obvs).
Irwin says to “implement what your parents need before it becomes urgent…. The more you anticipate, the smoother the transition will be and the more accepting your parents will be.” So, if you don’t like your dad driving around in the winter, get the details of other transportation he could use, or, as Irwin suggests, find a “young seniors helping older seniors” service, which might include friend-dates for coffees or haircuts or groceries, whatever would make life easier. “Now, Dad doesn’t have to do that run,” says Irwin, and when you present it, it’s not like, “you’re done,” it’s, “here’s something to try, sometimes.”
Avoiding panic, judgment, and criticism is the only way to swing any of this. Irwin says, correctly, “It takes a lot of courage to accept help.” You’re not telling your parents that they’re incapable; instead, she says, “You’re saying, ‘Mom, there are days that you just don’t feel like shopping and cooking.’ Try to frame it in a positive way…. You’re not micromanaging them, you are offering support based on your research.” Like, really: imagine if your kid, with her $900 hooker shoes and unintelligible slang, came into your house and told you what was up. You’d feel defensive, stupid, small. So, Irwin says, “If you quietly and resolutely implement something, just one thing that you know will work, you can build on that success.” (Unless your parents are lifestyle-entitled Baby Boomers. “They’ve always had what they want, how they want it,” says Irwin. “These people will not take any advice.” So if your mom and dad are like that, I guess, good luck.)
If you really can’t talk about this stuff with your parents, or if you don’t live in town, Irwin suggests hiring a consultant or a social worker to do an assessment. An outsider can explain to a parent unwilling to accept help that they’re creating more problems than they think, and that they’re in a partnership with you. Irwin says, “Often, my only job is to go in and say to a woman, ‘If you really want to be helpful and no trouble, here is your part.’ This has to work for the whole family.”
I’m 30. Should I date a guy I will never end up with?—Abby
The dating equation you’re using, something like age divided by sexual attractiveness plus baby-desperation minus not having your shit together, equals something that is meaningless and imaginary. What you think you want, who you have in your head, is not going to be who you actually end up with. Excluding any guy you have jazz-hands-feelings for is, therefore, a terrible idea.