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Aging Parents: Emotional states marketers should acknowledge

Today’s blog entry is paraphrased from that must-read B2B marketing news site, MediaPost.com. In her January column, Jackie Stone tackled the sensitive subject of how the children and families of aging and infirm parents grapple with the inevitability of long-term medical care and housing.

A group of Jackie’s Boomer friends were chatting over a glass of wine. The topic that dominated the very passionate discussion wasn’t politics or sports — it was what to do about Mom and Dad. Nearly all of her friends in the circle were either going through or had gone through some experience of dealing with a deteriorating health situation or the decreasing ability of a parent.

Those who had already worked through the situation felt content with the decision they and their parent(s) had made. Those still in the midst of the dilemma were filled with turmoil, and experiencing a range of strong emotions. Here are some of those mindsets, and ways that marketers can successfully address them.

1. Fear. One of the prevalent feelings adult children have is fear. “What will happen to Mom? If I do nothing, she may end up falling and injuring herself. If I press her to move into a senior living community, she may resent me for it.”

2. Guilt. Boomers often experience guilt about suggesting that Mom or Dad should give up driving or sell the family home.

3. Confusion. Adult children may be overwhelmed and confused by the number of services and living options available for seniors and the terminology used to describe them — home care, assisted living, adult day care, respite — and just can’t decide the right path to take.

4. Sadness. The adult child may feel sadness about his or her parent’s declining health or cognitive ability or even about selling the family homestead where so many wonderful memories were made.

5. Stress. Managing your own life is stressful enough; caring for an aging parent at the same time can exacerbate that anxiety. Many times caregivers fall ill themselves.

6. Resentment. Boomer adult children can end up feeling resentful if siblings aren’t participating in their share of the caregiving for their parents.

7. Frustration. It can be extremely frustrating not to get clear answers to questions, not receive timely return phone calls, or encounter employees who are not fully educated about their product or service.

The Boomer caregiver may be experiencing some or all of these emotions as they search for the right resolution for their parent’s situation. The first approach is to hear them; assure them that they are not alone. Then offer concrete direction, coupled with trusted thought leadership, that delivers positive outcomes and benefits for the entire family.

Robert DiGioia
Robert DiGioia
Robert is a journalist, graphic designer and copywriter. After a 13-year stint in Manhattan, he's returned to his native New Haven, CT, as a creative director for Hearst, writing for Connecticut Magazine and supporting Hearst's ad sales and marketing teams.

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