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Edition 199 – Ageing Parents

Last Monday, the 25th, was 23 years since my father-in-law, Wal, passed away. A World War II veteran with the Royal Air Force, his passing was sudden and unexpected.

He and his wife, Peggy, emigrated to Australia in 1993, a year after Trish and I were married. Their eldest daughter, Sue, had herself married an Australian and had emigrated 10 years previously.

At 6.30pm one Monday evening in November, life was normal. By 10.30pm, Trish and Peggy had returned from Campbelltown Hospital, Wal unable to be saved having suffered two massive heart attacks in the space of a few hours. At that moment, Peggy came to live with us.

Over the next 12 years, we made a conscious decision for Trish to be the primary carer for her Mum. As our children grew up, Peggy played an incredibly important role in our boy’s lives. She was there every step of the way. From the washing up to baking cakes and watching the Thomas the Tank Engine with the boys, Peggy was a part of our everyday family, not merely an occasional weekend visit.

We made this decision in our lives for two reasons:

  1. Because of the importance of family.
  2. Because we could as the owners of our own family business.

Too often, I see the owners of family businesses put business first and their family somewhere else in the order of priorities.

Being in business is not just about making bigger profits, building a corporate empire or driving fancy cars.

Being in business is about the ability to make choices with your life, about how you want to live your life.

In my opinion, one of those choices should be around spending time with our older relatives, out of choice, not necessity.

As our parents and other relatives age, inevitably, their health will present issues. That will start to take up your time as you inherit the obligation to ferry them between appointments and hospitals. Most people are completely unprepared for this in their lives, so much so that when it happens, they often experience two clear emotions:

  1. Annoyance – at their normal routine being unsettled.
  2. Guilt – at feeling annoyed.

So, why not factor time with your parents and older relatives into your week, right now, whilst they’re healthy, and still with you?

If you’re the owner of your family business, you have the highest authority and the clearest choice to have the afternoon off and take your Dad out for a beer or your Mum to the movies. Things can wait for a few hours, can’t they? And if they can, why not do it again next week?

Sometimes the wealthiest people I come across have little money, but incredible memories and life experiences…