As your parents age, you may need to talk with them about a variety of issues, including finances, health and future living arrangements. Broaching sensitive, personal subjects is never easy, and you may feel intimidated about starting a conversation.
You may be unsure if your parents will be receptive to talking through their plans, challenges and emotions with you. By using the following strategies, you can create a smooth process for beginning a conversation about aging with your parents.
Have a Plan in Mind
Before you start a discussion with your parents, it’s important to formulate a concrete plan for the issues you wish to talk over and the points you want to make.
If you’re concerned about your parents’ health or safety, make a list of specific topics to work through. For example, you can ask questions about their physical health. Have they noticed any issues with balance or weakness? Are they losing weight or having trouble sleeping? Do they feel safe in their home?
Depending on your parents’ age and health status, you may want to discuss their continuing ability to take care of daily tasks, such as driving, shopping, cooking, cleaning and bathing. Are they managing their medications well, or do they sometimes miss doses or take too much of a medication?
If you want your parents to consider a move to a supportive living environment, consider places that you think might be a good fit for them, and be ready to discuss next steps if they seem open to the idea.
Even if you don’t plan to start a conversation in the near future, by thinking through your concerns and questions you can be ready if your parents initiate the discussion.
Start as Early as Possible
The best time to begin a dialog with your parents is before the conversation becomes unavoidable due to an accident or sudden health issue. If you don’t discuss issues related to aging and one of your parents suffers a stroke or other debilitating event, the conversation may become much more difficult for all parties.
Let your parents know that you want to talk to them before there is a crisis so that you have plenty of time to work together to come up with solutions that fit their lifestyle.
Discussions about issues related to aging are always difficult and can be more so if your parents become defensive. To avoid a negative reaction, try to approach the discussion in a respectful manner.
Begin from the point of view that your parents are adults who will continue to make their own decisions, and you are simply there to support them in the choices they make about their future. Make sure your parents know that your goal is to understand their plans and wishes.
Tread Lightly with Finances
Few areas of discussion are as sensitive as finances. Especially if your parents tend to be private about their financial situation, plan to approach the topic as gently as possible.
If your parents have debt or any embarrassing events in their financial past, they may not be comfortable discussing the details with you. Even if they are financially comfortable, they still may hesitate to give you the details of their wealth.
Let your parents know that you don’t need all the specific numbers at this point, but you would like to be prepared to assist them if the need arises. Simply getting a list of their financial institutions, advisers and individuals to contact is a good start.
Once you’ve broken the ice on finances, try to learn the status of your parents’ estate planning. If you ever need to make medical or financial decisions on their behalf, you will need to know if they’ve established a living will, powers of attorney, and other important legal documents.
Offer Unconditional Support
Most importantly, be ready to offer plenty of emotional support to your parents. As they age, they may face challenges with their health along with the stress of becoming less independent. Take the time to listen, and work as a team with your parents to find solutions that provide them with the highest quality of life possible.
Lake Park offers an active, maintenance-free lifestyle and a variety of supportive living options. To schedule your visit, please contact us today.