Hope for living, loving and caring with no regrets!

Carolyn Miller Parr

Episode 34

Ep 33  Rayna Neises, your host, interviews Carolyn Miller Parr.  Wife, mother, litigator, judge, family caregiver, and mediator are just a few of the many hats that Carolyn has worn in her 83 years.  And, at the age of 74, she added author to that distinguished list.  Her second book, Love’s Way: Living Peacefully With Your Family As Your Parents Age, is a valuable tool for seniors and their adult children. She shares the following insights with the hope that it helps families navigate the journey without disputes that end up in the courts or mediation:

  • Most disputes between adult children are regarding their parent’s care, their parent’s wishes, and the will; and the problems are solvable by talking!
  • Adult children worry most about their parent’s safety; Parents worry most about their autonomy
  • When there is resistance to a solution, reframe the question to involve everybody’s interests. Example: How can the parent stay in his/her house and be safe enough that the adult child will not worry?
  • When change is needed, ask lots of questions to find lots of solutions, then work for a win-win
  • Sources of conflict: old grudges; parental favoritism; lack of transparency regarding caregiving; not reviewing the will with everyone; failure to explain medical wishes to everyone; choosing the wrong person as power of attorney
  • Comes down to communication and having the difficult conversations . . . You just need to do it!
  • Four things parents and their adult children need to say to each other:
    • I love you.
    • Thank you.
    • I forgive you.
    • Please forgive me.

Transcript

*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

Welcome to A Season of Caring Podcast where there’s hope for living, loving, and caring with no regrets. This is Rayna Neises, your host and today our special guest is Carolyn Miller Parr. She’s 83 years old and has been a secret service wife, high school teacher, mom of three girls, a 34-year-old law student, litigator, judge, ordained pastor, family caregiver, mediator, widow, and a new bride at the age of 18. Her first book was published when she was 74. And Love’s Way is her second. She’s now working on third and she thinks that you’re never too old to reinvent yourself. She hopes that when she needs her own caregiver, she’ll be able to encourage others, pray for them and be grateful and kind. Thank you so much for joining us today Carolyn.

Carolyn Miller Parr: 

Thank you for having me.

Rayna Neises: 

I love all the amazing things that you’ve done through your life and definitely your book Love’s Way: Living Peacefully with Your Family as Your Parents Age is such a valuable tool because it is a hard thing to navigate. Being able to live peacefully when there are so many opinions going on and aging is such a difficult process for most people. So tell me a little bit about how did you come to write Love’s Way.

Carolyn Miller Parr: 

Well, I had been a Federal Tax Judge for years and, I retired and wanted to be a peacemaker and keep people out of court rather than having to see them destroy themselves in court, trying to win. So I took classes to learn, to be a mediator. And I mediated at the regular court in DC got all kinds of cases and they started me on divorce and child support and all that. I didn’t have any experience with, but I had a mentor there. His name was Sig Cohen and he was very helpful. He and I co mediated for awhile. And then we decided we would start our own private practice and continue as volunteers at the court but, take more cases and charge people who wanted to choose their mediator. And, so the stories in Loves Way came out of stories our clients told us, although I changed the detail, so they’re not identifiable. But we started seeing more and more cases involving older families. That is families with adult children who had disputes with each other, very frequently about the parent’s care and sometimes disputes with the parents. So the parents would call us and ask us to meditate, or one sibling would call and say, can you mediate this? Sometimes the disputes were actually after the parents’ death and they were about wills. Often money was one thing, but I’m listening to that we were able to resolve a lot of, a lot of, disputes. And so we thought, why don’t we write a book and tell people how to avoid these kinds of disputes, but if they’re in them, how to resolve them. What a mediator would do and maybe how to be your own family mediator. We both had personal experience taking care of our parents. So we wrote it from the perspective of the caregiving adult. And then of the older person who was maybe needing care. Now I’m in my eighties, but I don’t feel like I need care yet, but I am seeing where it’s very nice when my kids volunteer to go get the groceries for me right now because I’m not feeling safe in the grocery store or my husband got sick for a while and his kids wanted to, to drive him to the doctor. I could drive I can still drive, but, I let them do that because it made them feel like they were part of his care and part of his life. So we’re not aware of, we need a lot of caregiving now, but we do need some help. You know, I don’t want him to get up on a ladder for example, and he’s got sons. And so they’re willing to come over and do that kind of thing for us. But we’re still very able to take care of ourselves and have enough money to take care of ourselves, So that’s how we came to write the book as a, I felt called by God actually to do this book, I had to persuade Sig. These problems are solvable. And sometimes if you don’t get some help or sit down and talk, at least there are issues where families are destroyed, the parent dies and the children never speak to each other again.

Rayna Neises: 

That’s such an important point. They are resolvable and it does take, sometimes it takes a professional to come in and help you walk that way. But definitely, you have to be talking whether it be siblings or with the parent themselves. I think that is such an important point because, in the thick of it, emotions are running so strong that sometimes it feels helpless. It feels like there is no solution. So I think that’s a really important message just right there.

Carolyn Miller Parr: 

Yeah,

Rayna Neises: 

So what did you discover the major sources of conflicts are between parents and their caregiving children?

Carolyn Miller Parr: 

I think the main source is when you do this role change and the parents need more help and the children start to take care of the parents, it can be very awkward. And there can be a lot of misunderstandings. Children worry most about their parent’s safety usually, and parents worry most about keeping their own autonomy, keeping control of their life. And I can’t parents say to me, I would rather be found dead in my apartment than to be forced to move into a nursing home. And, I know all nursing homes are not bad, but people feel that way sometimes. And the children are trying to force a solution they think is better and the parents are resisting and that can be a real, non-starter. And it does need to be, I can tell you some ways we’ve resolved those or help people resolve them.

Rayna Neises: 

That’d be great.

Carolyn Miller Parr: 

You have to reframe the question so that it involves everybody’s interests. So first you have to know why mom doesn’t want to move. It may not just be your stubborn streak. It may be that she feels overwhelmed by getting rid of all her stuff. Or maybe that she doesn’t want to move in with her kids because they keep the house colder than she can stand. And she doesn’t want to criticize them and she doesn’t want them to have to change. It may be that all her friends are in her neighborhood or her church or her doctor or her bank and she knows how to get to all of them easily. And it’ll be harder if she has to move 10 miles away. There could be a lot of reasons why she doesn’t want to move. So what you do is to reframe the issue so that, okay, let’s brainstorm how mom could stay in her house and be safe enough that you all wouldn’t worry about it. So then that opens it up that helps mom understand the kids are not just trying to be bossy. They really want her to be safe. Yeah, It opens up all kinds of things. You know, you can call her twice a day in the morning, make sure she takes her meds, and then the evening to make sure she’s okay. At night you can take turns doing that, even have a schedule. Find out what she really needs, does she needs somebody to take her to the doctor or to go to the grocery. She still drive herself? Does she have friends who will drive her? but to respect the mother is opinion. I mean, if she’s got Alzheimer’s yet another little question, but let’s say she doesn’t, she just doesn’t agree with what the kids want. We’ve got a family member now who’s in that situation, he fell and he broke his arm and he can’t drive anymore. Well, and he’s 90 years old, but he wants to live in his house. He went to stay with a daughter while his arm was healing, and now he’s going back and the kids are fighting him tooth and claw, you can’t live by yourself. And he says yes I can, well, he’s been back there two weeks and he’s happy. He’s hired somebody to come two days a week and otherwise, he’s doing fine. So I think the thing is to realize that parents are adults and they have the right to make their decisions. Even if it’s not one you think is wise or that you agree with. I said to one adult kid, well, have you ever made a decision you regretted? Made a mistake, you know, let your mom make a mistake. She’ll learn if she doesn’t work for her, she’ll, she’ll figure it out. You know?

Rayna Neises: 

Hmm. So true. And I’m not sure why we think that all solutions need to look exactly the same, but so many times we just rush in and this is the answer. Like you said, just asking the questions to truly understand there are lots of solutions. Let’s keep looking for options that can, we can all end up with a win, win. We don’t have to have somebody mad, sad, and upset. So I love that. That’s such a great example to really think through and understand how to reframe. So, siblings, siblings are such a struggle. So tell me some of the common things that you found with trying to get siblings to work together in caring for their parents.

Carolyn Miller Parr: 

Well, sometimes there are old grudges that come up. They have nothing to do with the parents. But it’s like, I will never trust her because she lied to me once. Or she once told the secret or, all the stuff that can happen with kids growing up and you have to kind of help them say what it is, that’s stopping them from cooperating One person might say, I’ll never trust her because she’s a liar and I’m not going to say you’re a liar. I’m gonna say you remember things differently. One thing that needs to happen is there needs to be some apology and forgiveness sometimes. And sometimes the person will apologize and they’re not forgiven and they’ve done the best they can. There’s a good apology too, and an apology that’s not a real apology, you know? Like, well, if you were offended by something, I said, I’m sorry, I’m sorry you’re so sensitive. Not I know I hurt your feelings and I’m sorry, you know, so there’s different kinds of apologies. Sometimes the thing to apologize for happens right. In the middle of the mediation. Somebody says something ugly. You have to stop and take a break and breathe and let’s go take a 10-minute break and come back.

Rayna Neises: 

So I think that’s such a good point because I do think oftentimes we’re stuck in the past and those old scripts and those old ways that we interacted and behaved get in the way of what we’re trying to do right now. So ignoring it, doesn’t fix it, but being able to find that forgiveness and move forward with the same goal in mind can definitely bring us to a place where we can support our parents rather than be at odds with each other, which breaks our parent’s hearts.

Carolyn Miller Parr: 

Another thing that causes problems between siblings. It’s really parental favoritism and it could be real, or it could be just in the person’s mind, but they may need to talk about it and they may talk about it with the parent. And that’s another case where a parent might say, You know, I know we gave her sister a lot nicer wedding than you got, but when he got married, dad was sick. There wasn’t any money. And when she got married, we had the money and I’m really sorry. That kind of thing, or to give unequal gifts in a will is also problematic. And sometimes there are good reasons to do it. You know, one person has plenty of money and the other one is a struggling artist and is talented, but never gonna get the rich. And you want to, even it out, or one kid is just disappointed you over and over again. Maybe they’re a drug addict or something you don’t feel like you’d want to give them a bunch of money. You need to talk about it and you need to talk about it to both children, to the one you want to help more and the one who you feel should get less. Privately as a parent, otherwise, they’re going to blame each other and think somebody talked you into something or they lied to you about them or whatever. They, they need to know what you’re going to do. And there needs to be transparency between siblings. So if one sibling becomes the caregiver, they should tell the other siblings what’s happening. Mom is seeing a doctor and he suspects cancer. You want to get mom’s permission, but it’s important that your siblings know what you know about that. And, keeping secrets is not good. One kid may have the parent’s power of attorney or share bank account or something, and they need to tell the other kids what’s going on and encourage your mother or father as it might be to be open about stuff.

Rayna Neises: 

So those are some of the one difficult topics. Inheritance money is one of the really tough topics to talk about from a parent to their children. But what other things do parents need to make sure that they cover to help keep the peace in the family?

Carolyn Miller Parr: 

They may not want to tell their kids how much money to expect when they die, because they may end up having to spend it, or they don’t want the kid to think it’s their money and so the parents shouldn’t take a vacation or something like that. Also don’t want to kill the child’s ambition to take care of themselves. But you definitely need to have a will and you need to tell all the children who is the administrator of the will that you’ve named and where the will is kept and anything, they may be shocked by like, say you want to give 20% to a charity. You should tell the kids that, you’re making unequal gifts, as I said, you should tell them that. You may want to tell them how much money you have in your different bank accounts. Give them a list of the investments. You definitely should keep a list of insurance policies and, employment benefits on death and those kinds of things. So it will be easy for them to figure it out.

Rayna Neises: 

I think everything you’re saying is that communication. And so many times it’s hard. Why do we not want to do it? We don’t want to talk to each other, but it is so important. I’m a stepmom and sitting down with all the four stepchildren and my husband and having us talk about this is in our will. This is what our plan is and hearing it from their dad so that it’s not something I have to say, later. It can be a hard conversation and I don’t think it’s just one conversation. It needs to be kind of a continual thing.

Carolyn Miller Parr: 

Absolutely. That’s true. I have four stepchildren now and a three of natural children and we have, a prenuptial agreement so that what I brought into the marriage is my property to distribute to my kids and the same for him. And, so we did that because we’re older and we know the kids had certain expectations and none of them are greedy. We didn’t want them to resent the stepparent as if, you know, I was going to take their, their stuff and. Jim was going to take my husband’s stuff. And so, that was a good thing to do. And we sat down with them. We gave them copies of the prenup except for their list of attachments, which was what we had and it’s attached in there. But, we weren’t so comfortable in talking dollar signs to the kids. I think for a second marriage, that’s a good thing to do. Especially later in life. Money’s money is weird. You know, there are reasons why you want to talk about it and reasons why you don’t, but, a lot of hard conversations. Well, one of the hard conversations is how much help do you want medically, if you have terminal cancer, do you want him to keep going and keep trying one thing after another? Or do you want to step back and say, I think I just liked to die peacefully at home, or, what is it you want? And people come up with different answers. And it’s really important to tell your children what your answer is. For example, I said with this pandemic I did not want to be on a ventilator, because I read about older people and how being on a ventilator can just mess you up. I have three daughters, they all wrote me back and said, mom, we’re so glad she told us this because we wouldn’t know. They may fight with each other about what to do the parents unconsciously. Those kinds of things are really good. Where do you want to be buried? What kind of funeral do you want? Who do you want with you when you’re in your final days? What are the most important things you’d like to see or do before you pass? Maybe there’s a sister you’d like to visit or everybody’s going to have different answers, but important to talk about them now. Why is it hard to talk about those things? Because you’re scared to bring it get up, children don’t want to bring up a parents dying and parents trying to bring it up sometimes and the kids say they don’t talk about that now that makes me nervous. I don’t want to think about it. So you gotta, you gotta think about it. Sometimes you’re afraid you’re going to hurt somebody’s feelings if you have hard conversation, you name one person as the executor of your will, you name somebody else, or maybe the same person as your power of attorney for medical care, maybe the same person or a different person for a financial power of attorney. If you have more than one child, my advice is to spread it around as much as you can so everybody feels like they’re trusted, they’re loved and they have some responsibility for you. And, sometimes there are good reasons why you can’t do that. We had a case where a person was living with her daughter who took her to the all of her doctors, and sat there, and heard everything and did all that. But she named a son as her medical power of attorney because he was a physician, but he lived in California and she lived on the east coast. It didn’t make sense, really? she changed it after, you know, we talked to, but she needed to talk to him too. And he didn’t even know it was the power of attorney. He couldn’t believe it. He said, look, mom, I’m a doctor. If I call another doctor, they’re going to talk to me. I don’t need you written down.

Rayna Neises: 

There’s always a, so many different pieces involved and I think the conversations are what are important. And we, I don’t think we regret those. I know losing both of my parents. I regret the conversations. I didn’t have. More than I regret anything that I did. Being able to have clear information is so important. So what four things do parents and children need to say to each other?

Carolyn Miller Parr: 

Okay. This is not original with maintenance. Came from a Doctor Binoche who worked in a hospice. Then he said, you need to say, I love you. Thank you. I forgive you. And please forgive me. And I was thinking maybe you don’t want to say I forgive you because there’s nothing to forgive or please forgive me if you can’t think of anything, but there might be things that are there that you’re going to wish later you had, you said. And I think thank you is a really good thing to think about because we probably remember to say, I love you, but we might not remember to say Thank you. There are also things you can say every day of your life while the person’s alive.

Rayna Neises: 

Those are beautiful, such good reminders because they are important in so many different ways. Like you said, I love you as one that we have a tendency to be more free with, but not always, sometimes there’s still generations or relationships that we don’t verbalize it like we need to. I agree. Thank you. As powerful, especially. Actually both directions. It’s so amazing. When you think about how meaningful it is to be able to tell your parents, thank you for all the things that they’ve done, but then for them to be able to say it back to you for what you’ve been able to do for them is very powerful as well. And I forgive you. I think we all have little things we’ve talked about throughout this conversation, little things that are misunderstandings that can become big things if we don’t offer I forgive you or you will you forgive me? Those are both very powerful as well. Well, Carolyn, thank you so much for joining us today. Such amazing information so much to think about, and listeners you’re definitely going to want to pick up her book Love’s Way, it has so many great examples of those tough conversations that we need to have. And I really appreciate your experience and your passion for sharing what can help families journey through that walk all the way to the end and still be a family.

Carolyn Miller Parr: 

Thank you very much.

Rayna Neises: 

Just a reminder, A Season of Caring Podcast is created for the encouragement of family caregivers. If you have medical, financial, or legal questions, please consult your local professionals and take heart in your season of caring.

*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

Resources

Love's Way Available to be ordered at

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Hendrickson.com

Christianbooks.com

Carolyn Miller Parr

Carolyn Miller Parr

Author

 

Carolyn Miller Parr, 83, has been a Secret Service wife, high school teacher, mom of three girls, 34-year-old law student, litigator, judge, ordained pastor, family caregiver, mediator, widow, and a new bride at age 80.

Her first book was published when she was 74. “Love’s Way” is her second, and she’s now working on a third.

She thinks you’re never too old to reinvent yourself. She hopes that even when she needs her own caregiver she’ll be able to encourage others, pray for them, and be grateful and kind.

www.carolynmillerparr.com

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Meet Your Host

Rayna Neises, ACC

Your Host

An ICF Certified Coach, Pod-caster, Author & Speaker, offers encouragement, support and resources to those who are in a Season of Caring for Aging Parents.

Her passion is for those caring and their parents, that they might be seen, not forgotten & cared for, not neglected

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4 Things you need to know as you begin your season of caring

4 Things you need to know as you begin your season of caring

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