Life throws curve balls. How we handle those curve balls will determine if we come out on top or badly bruised; planning and preparing for potential curve balls of life will make a world of difference.

One probability in the lives of adult children is their parents will age, become frail, have a significant health issue and/or need assistance, at some level. How prepared are you to aid them with their short- or long-term care needs? Successfully navigating this particular life curve will depend on how well you know your parent’s real wishes and circumstances. And success is measured by what works well for them and you.

Jim Comer’s book, When Roles Reverse—A Guide to Parenting your Parents, offers 50 questions that will save you time, money and tears—IF you take the time to get the answers. You’ll know many answers, but there are some matters that may have been ‘off the table’ at your house— and those are usually the critical ones.

Here are some of the key questions:

  1. When did you last talk with your parents about their plans for the future?
  2. What decisions have they made?
  3. What specific plans has your family made for a sudden parental illness or emergency?
  4. How frankly—and how recently—have you talked with your siblings and other family members about the realities of caring for your parents?
  5. If you will be the primary caregiver/manager, how do you feel about that responsibility?
  6. If you are married, how does your spouse feel about your commitment to your parents?
  7. Do you know your parent’s monthly income?
  8. How would you describe your relationship with your parent?

Very powerful questions indeed!! There are 42 additional and equally valuable questions to which you should know the answers. It may take weeks or months to get all these answered, though like the author, I can guarantee your knowing the answers to these 50 questions will place you in very good shape to deal with your parent’s care.

It takes time for us to adjust the vision of our parent’s reality. We tend to place people, in our mind’s eye, as though they were frozen in time. The sooner you can reach acceptance of their reality, the better—for you all.

Through both personal and professional experience, I appreciate that knowing what your loved one’s wishes are will not guarantee them. It is possible that what they have asked for isn’t feasible for a range of reasons. However, knowing the kind of living environment that they prefer does provide you guidance for finding a professional care property that comes darn close.

Every one of us will face a unique set of circumstances. There is no one way to “do it right.” You have to work out your own way, given the history and the dynamics of your own family. You can’t heal ancient wounds overnight or rewrite the past; however, you can choose how you live the end of the story.

Kae Hammond is founder and President of Dementia Help Center; author of Pathways: A Guidebook for Dementia & Alzheimer’s Family Caregivers and host of “Care for the Family Caregiver” on 95.9FM The Oasis every Sunday at 7AM. For more information call: (877) 699.3456 or visit

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