When Good Parents Go Bad

I need help!
“May you live long enough to be a problem to your children.”

That was the compensating knee-slapper offered to us when we had teen-aged sons who were making us old before our time. But now, that expression doesn’t amuse because of the likelihood of it coming true. The term “sandwich generation” was coined to describe the middle-aged people who are caught in the bind of meeting the needs not only of their children, but of their parents as well. Recent headlines in the news about women delaying their child-bearing until middle-age conjures up the image of twenty-somethings, barely getting established in adulthood, having to face the crises of their aging parents’ needs.

This is not a subject people give much thought to. No one likes to discuss needing to parent one’s parents or settling an estate after their passing, but tip-toeing around the subject doesn’t help. A book I recommend, “The Boomer Burden – Dealing With Your Parents’ Lifetime Accumulation of Stuff” by Julie Hall, has wonderful information for those who are willing to contemplate the inevitable. She writes mostly for the adult children in these situations, but she also has text boxes called “Notes to Parents” with advice for the pro-active older person who wants to prevent the disruption in their children’s lives if possible.

There are two subjects that really should  be discussed:

1. Where can important papers be found? If there is a will, where is it? Where are any deeds, insurance policies, investment statements? Where are any health care directives, powers of attorney, final plans, safe deposit box key?

2. What should be done with the parents’ personal property when they no longer need or want it? That is a hard conversation to start because of the fear of being thought greedy if you are the adult child or grandchild.

On my website, I have two products that help with the  situation.

  1. The first is the File It and Find It® system for rounding up the piles of paperwork clutter and making them into coherent and findable information.
  2. The other is the workbook, “Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate?”, produced by the University of Minnesota Cooperative Extension Service, about getting the conversation going about what to do with your or Grandma’s personal possessions.

These two items work well for either the pro-active senior or an adult child or other involved person working with a senior who can’t help as much.


Harriet Vaughan

About Harriet Vaughan

I am a Senior Move Manager, working with Senior Citizens and their families when it is time to downsize or just make the home safer and more comfortable for aging in place. I help these people make decisions about what to keep, throw out, donate, or sell. I also offer workshops on "Getting Things Done When You Are Over 60". I write about how to overcome memory lapses and how to use your physical energy well. I have a degree in Home Economics from the University of Maine. I live in Coopers Mills, about 14 miles east of Augusta. I have been married for almost 50 years to my husband, Chuck Vaughan. Our business is called Legacy Years Transition Services.