Last night I learned my father had a Transient Ischemic Attack or TIA, sometimes described as a mini-stroke.
He was standing in the driveway, talking to my mother about the mums she had planted, and all of a sudden his speech became gibberish. He said he felt like he was having an out-of-body experience, because he could see himself talking and couldn’t understand why his words were garbled. He knew what he was thinking, but it wasn’t coming out.
Mom said he looked totally bewildered and scared – which understandably scared her too. Of course after the moment passed, and they talked about what had happened, being from the “walk-it -off” school of thought when it comes to medical issues, they continued on to the recreation center to work out as they had originally planned. When they got to the center, and dad casually mentioned the episode to the nurse who was checking his blood pressure, she immediately sent him to the emergency room.
According to the Mayo Clinic, about 1 in 3 people who have a TIA will eventually have a stroke, with about half occurring within a year after the episode. No one wants to think that something bad is happening to them, so like my parents, many people choose to ignore a TIA and hope it is nothing to be concerned about.
In my father’s case, he was kept in the hospital for 4 days, while they ran test after test on him to determine if he had actually had a stroke, or if he was at risk for one in the near future. They eventually concluded his TIA was triggered by medications he had been prescribed to overcome a bad cold. Because he weighs so little, the medication was too strong for him.
Although I stay in touch with my parents, they live over 2 hours away, and all of this took place about 2 weeks ago. They didn’t tell me until now because they didn’t want me to worry.
A client recently shared an article with us that described an excellent book, The Other Talk. (Thanks, Jean!) The book encourages older parents to talk to their grown children about their wishes related to health care, estate planning, living arrangements, and other issues that are difficult to discuss. Because they are uncomfortable, most people make decisions when they are forced to make them – when they are faced with an emergency and decisions must be made. We’ve seen this all too often with our clients’ parents. Decisions made in a crisis are rarely the ones you would make if you had more time to plan.
My parents are very healthy and active, and have been my role models for financial and life management skills. But this year has been full of reality checks, and now I realize it’s time for me to have “the talk” with my parents. Wish me luck.