This Mother’s Day, why not let mom know just how big a celebrity she is?
Whether your mom is 60, 70 or 80, or if you are a mom yourself with a son or daughter who is a mom at 30, 40, or 50, you all can start a new family tradition this year. Make a documentary about mom’s life. Thanks to the Smartphone, we’re all filmmakers these days. Capturing mom’s (or dad’s) thoughts on video is a great way to create a living history that will last for generations. And, it’s a great way to gain insight on mom’s impressions about aging or how her life has evolved. The focus of the living history you record of mom on Mother’s Day should be asking about her memorable life experiences (i.e., “Tell us about your first boyfriend…”). Howeber, it’s also an opportunity to ask some tougher questions. “Mom, what do you see your life being like 10 years from now? Or 20 years from now?” I had the pleasure of interviewing legendary television journalist Joan Lunden for Healthline News a few years ago. It was Lunden who shared with me the idea of interviewing mom (or dad) around holiday time to find out what their end-of-life wishes are. The fact is, many people don’t plan much for their golden years. Not only financially, but also in terms of medical wishes, and division of labor among children who offer to help. In the end, it can create conflicts that sadly end in dissolved sibling relationships once mom or dad is gone.
‘Get a video camera, pretend you’re Joan Lunden’
“Get a video camera, pretend you’re Joan Lunden, and write out an interview,” Lunden told me in the interview for Healthline News. “Tell them, ‘I want to know more about what life was like and what the world was like when you were a young kid.’ Get them to talk about the cost of things. Did they go to school in a one-room schoolhouse? What did they do as a family on Friday or Saturday nights?” Then, she said, ask them how prepared they are for older age. Ask them how they make sure life remains joyful and hassle-free. Do they have a durable power of attorney so someone can manage their money or health decisions when they no longer can? Have they thought about which child they would want to assign such responsibility to? Did they know that they could assign health and financial to two different children? Would they like to sign a HIPAA release in advance? This way, if they ever become ill, all the siblings can get information about their parent’s medical status. Normally, just one sibling is designated as the only one to receive such information. It’s good to get as much of this information as possible, particularly with older parents, in that first interview. But it’s not necessary to push too hard. It can become something you do every holiday, not just on Mother’s Day.
Tell me what your first car was like…
And having the answers to such sensitive questions on videotape can help avoid conflicts among siblings down the line. The documentary project also offers a fun way to broach some of the most difficult conversations a child ever will have with their parent – giving up the keys, for example. “Mom, what was your first car? How much did you pay for it? Did you remember the first time you drove? Was it scary? Do you ever get scared driving now? Do you intend to drive forever? Or at some point, might you want to start taking the bus, or using other forms of transportation?” A year after I interviewed Joan for Healthline, I got to meet her in person when she came to my town for a fundraiser. We talked some more about these issues and, in the end, she inspired me to get into the business of being an advocate for caregivers of elderly people.
Where would you like to live if you can no longer live alone?
Another tough conversation to have is talking to a parent about giving up their home when they no longer can live independently. You might ask, “Mom, what was your first apartment like? How much did it cost? Did you like being away from your parents?” Then segue into the modern day, and maybe talk about someone mom knows who is now living with a child (or vice versa) or who lives in an assisted living community, memory care, or nursing home. If mom says she never would want to live in such a place, you could suggest that there are other options, but of course, caregivers must support their own families, too. If you or a sibling were to quit a job to care for mom full-time, would mom think it’s fair to pay their child a stipend? While these are difficult topics to broach and some would argue best left in private, the reality is that these issues come out in the end among siblings. Also, conversations had in private won’t help the child who steps up the plate for mom and dad if the siblings argue. “You had a free ride living in mom’s (or dad’s) house for many years,” is how caregiving sometimes is interpreted by non-involved siblings. Even for young moms – your children, for example – let your grandchildren on the “Mom Project” documentary idea. Encourage them to start doing it now, at a young age. Because the goal, after all, is to document a mother’s wonderful life. The more footage compiled over time, the better story it will make.
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