Happy National Chocolate Day!
October 28, 2020

Why, you might ask, would an estate attorney be blogging about National Chocolate Day?  As I was enjoying a nice piece of chocolate I began thinking about the process and the feelings we have when enjoying that perfect bite of sweetness. I looked at it carefully, smelled it and thought about the taste and the impact it could have on my hips!

Then I thought about the children of my elderly clients who don’t live nearby and only several times a year get to see their parents.  In just a few days, or often just a few hours, they attempt to “see” how Mom and Dad are doing.

I read a quote (and I no longer know where it came from) that said “any good chocolate has to be crisp, firm, smooth and silky in texture, and melt in the mouth.”  The same is true of the analysis that a child is going to make during that brief visit.

It has to be crisp in that they have a very limited amount of time.  They can’t ask all the possible questions but may only ask a few.  They can’t see what goes on from day to day but can only see what Mom and Dad let them see during the visit.

Children have to be firm but not overwhelming.  They need to help Mom and Dad understand that they are really trying to help make their lives better and are not just trying to take over.  Parents also have the right to be firm and refuse to do things that the child may want if it would negatively impact their day to day lives.

This is where the smoothness comes in.  All of the family members need to work together to reach a consensus on how best to help Mom and Dad while allowing Mom and Dad to retain decision making control for as long as they retain the mental faculties to make such decisions.  Smoothness becomes even more important once Mom and Dad can no longer make responsible decisions to allow them to be a large part of the process.  Include them in discussions.  Help them understand all the options and the pros and cons of each option.

Silkiness helps everyone get through the difficult process of aging.  Make the phone call just to say “hi” when you cannot be there to help.  Let siblings who are handling the daily grind know that you support and appreciate their efforts.  Offer to handle long distance things that can be done from afar.  For example, can you handle re-ordering the bed pads, diaper wipes, etc. that are needed so the local person has one less thing to shop for?  Most important, avoid playing back seat driver and trying to second guess every decision being made.  Asking questions to educate yourself about a decision is a perfect way to stay involved from afar rather than starting with how you would have done it differently.

Lastly, let the family relationship survive the aging process.  Allow the good memories of times together from the past and the times you enjoy together (even if only via phone calls) “melt” together to form that relationship you will cherish long after Mom and Dad are no longer with you.

So, the next time you bite into that piece of chocolate, savor how it reminds you of your parents and family.  Don’t just chomp down absent-mindedly.  Because like your family, it won’t last forever.

– Vicky Ann Trimmer

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