Thursday, January 21, 2010

"I'm Old, I'm Not Stupid!"

While meeting with one of my dearest clients a few months ago, I was surprised by her level of frustration over her family's ideas (perhaps presented as directions) regarding her estate plan.

"I mean, do they think I can't make my own decisions?" she scowled. "I'm old, I'm not stupid! Good night!"

More than a few times this year, I have been met with overzealous children seeking to "solve Mom's (or Dad's) problems" by figuring out what he or she should do in a given situation.

I have even found myself trying to step in and make decisions for my own mother, age 81, when perhaps I should have stepped back instead and given her the space she needed to make her own decisions in her own time.

Some decisions are difficult to make for anyone - do I move or do I stay? Who should take care of my affairs if something should happen to me? Who should receive the farm? the cottage? some other highly treasured family possession? Who will make medical decisions for me if I cannot? This are not decisions I would take lightly or make quickly without thought and discussion - why should we then expect anything different from our parents?

We may have the capacity to make quicker decisions, but our suggestions (or directions) will be based upon our own set of values, coming from our own point of view. The younger brother that you think is irresponsible may be Dad's right hand man - trustworthy, attentive to his needs and available when he is needed. Discouraging Dad's choice based on your opinion of your younger brother may be more self-serving than helpful, and is probably not in your Dad's best interests, despite your well-meaning intentions.

So, let us not, as the younger generation, think that we should step in and make the decision for our loved one, but instead listen, listen and listen even more to try to ascertain what Mom or Dad really wants.

Unless Mom or Dad has lost the capacity to make their own decisions and that loss of capacity has been documented and/or legally determined by a court of law, proceed with caution!

Your parent may be looking for someone to listen to their ideas, not solve all their problems.

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