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The advantages of neutral third party assistance

I have watched a CFO throw a temper tantrum and storm out of his mother’s house. I have watched a woman who owns her own million dollar business roll her eyes behind her father’s head and make the “blah blah blah” action with her fingers as he talked.

My interactions with both of these people were all very normal and civilized, and yet, when dealing with their parents they both reverted back to behavior one would expect from a child. Why is that?


Ever notice how family dynamics come to a head around the holidays. How the stress of having a huge need-to-be perfect Thanksgiving dinner, or relatives in from out of town can cause any underlying issues to just come screeching to the forefront? Well take that stress and multiply it by at least 100 and now we are approaching the levels of stress associated with the activities surrounding aging parents.

In addition to the dynamics that have been going on in your family for the past 40-plus years now we add in:

  • Parents fear over the feeling they are losing their independence
  • Adult child’s stress over trying to help their parents while also still raising their own families and maintaining a career
  • Potential issues over which siblings are helping more and which are footing the bill and all those long-entrenched sibling issues
  • The high financial cost of all the decisions involved and the stress associated with maybe not having a way to fund it
  • Guilt felt by the adult children who are not able to “do more”
  • Guilt felt by parents who want to avoid being “a burden”
  • Just facing the fear and reality of the whole mortality of everyone
  • I could go on but you get the idea

The introduction of a neutral third party provides a variety of benefits.

First of all, sometimes all it takes is the presence of a third party – in some professional capacity – to keep the emotions in check and allow the focus to be on taking care of the task at hand; basically to keep people on their best behavior.


Second, they come with the expertise of their different fields so they can provide insight and options you may have never even thought of. One of the challenges of planning for the future of aging parents is you get thrown into being a doctor, and a lawyer, and a financial planner, and maybe a bookkeeper, or a handyman installing grab bars and railings……all sorts of things that you may not really know how to be. And all of it takes you away from being what you should be – a family.

Third, utilizing various third parties to do those tasks that might be a point of contention can free up emotional energy that is better spent on not only spending precious time being a family, but lets face it, there are going to be some more difficult decisions that need to be made and it would be nice to not have aggravation over the “little stuff” already draining everyone.

So what is out there? Who can help? What can they do? Here are a few of my favorite resources to help you with your aging parents, maybe in ways you haven’t thought of.

I’m not including in my list here the well established need for an estate attorney and financial planner. They are of course very important key players, but they are familiar to most people and my intention here is to provide you with some resources and ideas you may not have thought of.

Patient Advocate: Usually folks with a medical background, a Patient Advocate accompanies their clients on doctor visits, interpreting and navigating what is an increasingly challenging environment. They are also very helpful when working with assisted living communities and nursing homes.

Personal Bookkeeper: Daily money management is one of the things that can get a bit tedious even well before any age related issues come up. These folks can help keep tabs on bank statements and bills, not only making sure that things are kept appropriately up-to-date but also providing a level of protection against potential scams.

Maid Service / Errand runner: I include these here because while they’re often known as being available, they aren’t always thought of as a way to help mom stay in her home a little longer. Having someone available once a week to do the more heavy lifting type of activities such as laundry and grocery shopping can make a big difference.

Home Care: Most people are aware of the fact that there are home care agencies out there and what they do, but I want you to know to ask if they provide certain services instead of just assuming they do or don’t.  Some agencies have lower minimum shift requirements (or none at all) and some provide a focus on helping people who just need someone to provide transportation. Or, if you’re not sure what to even ask for, call and ask for them for their opinions. They help clients every day and are probably very familiar with a situation that’s comparable to what you are trying to accomplish.

Move Management: Of course I’m biased here as this is one of the areas I focus on, but people are always saying to me “wow I had no idea help like that was available!”  Move Managers specialize in helping their clients downsize – choosing what to take with as they move out of homes they may have lived in for decades and making sure all the details in this very complex process are accomplished.

The thing about those of us who work in these fields is that while of course we need to earn a living at our chosen profession, we also mostly chose this type of work because we care about helping people. If you’re not sure a resource exists, or if you are experiencing a particular issue with your aging parents and you don’t know what to do, just ask!

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