Do you think your parents would ever allow you to perform their open-heart surgery? Ridiculous! But, there may be parents who would rather let you do this than explore the obscure cave of their personal lives.

I’m not talking about the lives that have been carefully crafted for the world to see. What I’m addressing is what’s hidden from view. Medical details, legal directives, personal fears, and the most closely guarded secret of all: finances. 

As we all struggle to maintain privacy from today’s onslaught of hackers, it’s time to celebrate the value of transparency with family. Life offers no guarantees, especially with aging. Consider your parents’ stage right now. Are they aging? Could an event suddenly place them in a position of needing your help? Are you fully prepared with an abundance of information to step in and assist in all areas that could be needed . . . tomorrow?

Aging provides an unchartered landscape for both your parents and for you. A landscape that can be jagged and harsh. Role reversal is shockingly painful. But few parents are comfortable revealing the details of their lives, especially to the “children.” Truth is, the generational divide can render you a “child” even when you reach the age of fifty. Performing open-heart surgery on your parents could be less scary.

Asking the difficult questions can be as fruitless as asking a one-armed man to clap his hands. Prying into details that are perceived as none of your business has the potential to escalate tensions and yield nothing; placing you in a vortex of crisis management.

As a nurse of forty years, I’ve lived this vortex with hundreds of families. I’ve watched good people hit one brick wall after another, a crisis that was totally avoidable through planning, documentation, and communication.

For any of you stuck in this stage, the answer is found in my two-part book series:

I’ve been surprised and delighted to see parents offer up their private information when the questions come from a structured format and the child is simply filling in the blanks that the Blueprint requires. Anyone of you can assist parents in this manner, thus helping yourself to be the perfect child.

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