So your older parents or grandparents are coming to visit, or, perhaps you are hosting the family-get-together this summer which includes the older folks, or maybe you are the one responsible for bringing the older guests to the party.

Do you find yourself not really knowing what to do with older family members? Is there a disconnect between the children and the older adults? Do you think they are really content just to be by-standers at the party they actually started?!

I am visiting a friend’s condo on the ocean, and I am looking out at the beauty of the ocean. It is just steps away. I want my mom to see it. I want her to be here, so I called her on the cell and I said,

“Mom. You would love this. We’ll have to do this together next year!”

Then I thought, what if there is no next year? We often take “next year” for granted and we shouldn’t when it comes to the older people we love, or are estranged from. Especially them. How did the last visit with mom go? Can I look back on that with pride and good feelings, instead of cringing, wishing I would have done or said “X”?

In the book The Art of the Visit, (in stores this May), I have a chapter on Visiting with Older Guests and Hosting Older Guests, both of which have numerous tips and suggestions for how to make those times the best they can be … for everyone. Here is an excerpt:

Besides all the usual planning and logistics of the visit, there are needed other ingredients which can’t be bought, borrowed, or prepared: The basic human virtues of patience, kindness, and empathy are even more important than your beautifully turned-out guest room. Part of the art of the perfect visit with elders is to remember that older people need the same emotional and physical things we all need—just doubled.

So next time you have your parents or grandparents, remember that although we think (rightly so at our age) that time is limitless, they know better. How you deal with them will make you feel either really great, or really bad, when they are gone. The “gee, we should have” and the second guessing about whether or not they were happy or you paid enough attention should not haunt your middle-of-the-night thoughts. Yes, we all have them. Instead, I want those times, whether you are hosting them or going to visit, to be filled with good memories, because of things you did (or in some cases, did not) do.

Don’t really care too much about this right now? Well, you will some day.

I don’t mean to sound gloomy. Just trying to bring a dose of reality to the table. Now sit up straight and eat your veggies.

Happy visiting.