Author urges children to stay connected with their aging parents

NEW ULM – A retired Mayo Clinic eldercare specialist and author talked about how to help aging parents enjoy life and how to best deal with the pleasures and challenges it brings Tuesday at a New Ulm Chamber of Commerce Health Initiative event at Oak Hills Living Center.

“Each of us is made better as a person serving aging parents. Honor your father and mother that you may be long upon the land,” said Dick Edwards, who served as administrator of Charter House in Rochester for two decades.

“Many of us want to do the right thing but don’t know exactly how,” said Edwards, whose book “Mom, Dad…Can We Talk?” includes more than 100 true stories and quotations.

“No one can do everything, but everyone can do something,” is among his favorite quotes.

Edwards told sons and daughters of aging parents to remain engaged with them.

He said his mother was a strong-willed, Irish Catholic who stressed family gatherings especially at Thanksgiving. He said his father was a bull-headed, Norwegian who never said much to him or even looked much at him, but rarely had any harsh things to say either.

“Staying engaged with them can make the difference between having no regrets at the end of their life and feeling guilty about it,” Edwards said. “Attitude is everything. At least be neutral if you can’t be positive. Have reasonable expectations and plan ahead. I’m 71, and I love growing older. There are perks and pleasures of growing older.”

He said no matter what it might look like, no family is perfect. Growing older has its challenges but also has huge pleasure potential.

Edwards warned of the four Ds – driving, drinking, depression and dementia.

“Dementia may be the most scary, but if you find a doctor who enjoys working with older patients, medications, if begun right away, can help,” Edwards said. “Stay engaged with your parents, no matter how demented they may be. People turn to the bottle if they feel disconnected. Remember to thank your parents for special things they did for you earlier in your lives. Don’t forget to tell them you love them, even if they don’t say it back right away, they may later. Everyone needs to be needed.”

Edwards said the bottom line is telling them you want what they want so ask them what that is.

“It’s not about you. It’s about them,” he said. “See how people celebrate this stage of life. It’s the bottom of the ninth. There are no do-overs. I still love it when my kids call and ask me for my opinion.”

He urged people to celebrate the life their parents live and do things their way. Have fun. Love your parents without demanding to be loved back.

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(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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