Having a conversation with an aging parent about a sensitive topic, such as health or future living situations, can be intimidating, but is often important. From preplanning to final wishes, knowing which words to use (and what to avoid) can ease both of your concerns and lead to a caring, construction discussion.
As you approach the conversation, be sure to direct your questions in a casual tone. It’s important to show your parent that you care, and ultimately want what’s best for them. By doing research beforehand, you can give them options and work together to choose the best solution.
Continue reading below for five must-have conversations when caring for aging parents, and how to initiate these important discussions.
From hearing to vision, maintaining good health is important as adults age. If you’re noticing signs that your parent’s health may be declining, it’s time to have a conversation.
To start, simply ask: how are you? This sets the tone for the conversation, and welcomes open dialogue. From there, direct your questions toward what’s concerning you or general health-related topics, such as diet, exercise, mobility or managing chronic health issues.
It’s important to get a pulse on your parent’s mental, physical and social wellbeing, discuss any challenges or concerns they’re facing, and then work together on a plan to address them. For example, if they’re having issues with mobility, finds ways to make day-to-day life more accommodating. Offer to pick up their mail, or install a ramp for easy access in and out of their home.
If health problems are making it difficult to live a happy, healthy life independently, it may be time to consider alternate living options.
2. Long-Term Care
Services provided through assisted living or other long-term care may include:
- Medication administration.
If your loved one is having difficulty in the areas listed above, it may be time to consider alternate living options such as long-term care, which offers professional services, social activities and therapeutic programming.
Assisted living and long-term care often come with negative connotations. To some, it means a loss of freedom and independence. To lessen these fears, research long-term senior care options and ask questions. Has your parent ever considered living in an assisted living facility? If so, what would they prefer? Home care services? Senior community? Help them find options that are tailored to their wishes and needs.
If your parent requires memory care, seek out care providers that specialize in the needs of those with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other memory problems. These facilities and services are designed to accommodate the safety and security of those with memory loss, reduce patient confusion and anxiety, and provide appropriate activities.
3. Financial and Legal Planning
From legal matters to medical bills, it’s important to get a sense of whether your parent has the proper affairs in order.
Sit down and devise a plan together. Do they have a living will? Have they designated a power of attorney? Are they able to manage their expenses, and do they have a long-term financial plan in place? These are all things to consider in case the day comes where they are unable to make decisions for themselves. Knowing their wishes and having access to the necessary documents is critical.
While sensitive issues to discuss, having a conversation about this before a crisis occurs saves families time, money and worry.
As adults age, there’s a growing need to adapt their driving practices appropriately. Since older drivers are more fragile, their fatality rates are 17 times higher than those of 25 to 64 year olds, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). With this statistic in mind, it’s important to have a conversation with your parents about safe driving.
This doesn’t mean they have to give up driving altogether. An effective approach might be a reduction in driving time or miles. However, if they express concerns about unsafe driving habits, offer to drive them around, or teach them how to use public transportation services. Having access to these services provides aging adults with the ability to maintain social connections, without sacrificing independence.
While talking about preplanning is hard, it’s also an act of love for your family. Within the first 24 to 48 hours following a death, there are up to 125 decisions to make when planning a funeral. If needed information isn’t readily available, then it can add a lot of stress for family members at an already difficult time.
By discussing preplanning options with an aging parent, you can ensure that final wishes are met, and your family won’t have to worry about making the right decisions. To start the conversation, simply ask: how do you want to be remembered? Talk about how a funeral or memorial service could reflect their life story, values, interests and experiences.
Families having a variety of options to deepen the meaning of their loved one’s tribute, including the following:
- Cemetery markers.
- Memorial candles.
- A memorial plaque or bench in a place of significance.
- Aboveground entombment in a mausoleum.
- Certified celebrants to design and conduct a personalized, meaningful tribute.
- Photo collage presentation.
- Video tribute.
- Display of personal belongings.
- Favorite flowers.
- And more.
Brainstorm ideas, then talk to a preplanning advisor about how to make your parent’s vision a reality.
Have the Talk of a Lifetime
With each of these subjects, it’s important to address the conversation in a casual, caring manner. It isn’t your job to tell an aging parent how to live, but you can propose practical options and arrive at a solution together. From assisted living to preplanning, find time to have a conversation with your parents before an emergency occurs. It’ll save time, money and worry in the long run. Plus, these conversations can be transformative, healing and comforting. So, have the talk.
The Funeral and Memorial Information Council (FAMIC) created Have the Talk of a Lifetime to help families engage in important conversations with those they love. A great way to segue into conversations about aging is to have the talk. By engaging in deeper, more meaningful conversation, you’ll get a better understanding of your loved one’s life story.
For more information about the talk and how to get started, download the free ebook.