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Caring for Aging Parents: 6 Must-Have Conversations

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Becoming a caregiver to your aging parents can be a rewarding way to provide comfort to the people who raised you.

However, it’s likely that you will need to have difficult conversations about sensitive topics at some point during your caregiving journey. From future living arrangements to final wishes, the reality of aging comes with several important considerations. And although it might be uncomfortable, having these discussions with grace is a necessary part of caring for elderly parents.

By doing research and compiling options ahead of time, you can help your parents understand you ultimately want what’s best for them.

Use the following questions as a resource to help you guide constructive conversations as a family caregiver.

1. "How are you?"

From hearing to vision, maintaining good health is important as adults age. Asking a non-specific question like “how are you?” or “how are you feeling? can open a discussion about your aging parent’s health, especially if you’ve recently noticed changes.

Understanding your parents’ general physical, mental, and social well-being can help you identify specific challenges or problems to overcome together. You may, for example, help your parents install a more accessible shower and bathtub, or assist in the delivery and assembly of a mobile chair lift for a stairwell.

2. "Do you feel safe and secure with transportation?"

As adults age, there’s a growing need to adapt their driving practices appropriately. But seniors who fear they may lose their independence might continue to operate a motor vehicle even when it is no longer safe for them to do so.

Rather than suggest your aging parents get rid of their car or rely entirely on you for rides, offer to teach them to use public transportation available in your area. Express your concern for their safety but reinforce your desire for your parents to keep their freedom. Alternatively, an effective approach might be a reduction in driving time or miles, or suggesting they avoid driving at night or during rush hour.

3. "Have day-to-day tasks been challenging lately?"

Day-to-day tasks like bathing, eating, exercising or basic housekeeping can become difficult for elderly adults, and even as their caregiver you may not always be available to assist them. While assisted living and long-term care can provide professional services in everyday activities, these options often come with fear and embarrassment on the part of your parents.

To avoid these feelings, frame this conversation as an opportunity to make their lives easier. Involve your parents in your researchask questions to help determine the right living arrangement for them. As a family caregiver, it’s also important to consider the long-term care options available to parents struggling with memory problems like dementia or Alzheimer’s, or other life-limiting conditions.

4. "Have you done any financial or 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.

While difficult, having conversations related to wills, a power of attorney, and other financial or legal needs can lift a massive burden off the shoulders of everyone involved. Even costs as straightforward as medical bills can become a complicated problem if left unattended.

Should an emergency occur, having a plan in place ahead of time will eliminate the need to make decisions while under stress.

5. "How do you want to be remembered?"

Let’s face it: No one wants to talk about their own passing. And while preplanning a funeral can be an emotional process, taking the time to discuss final wishes can help ensure parents’ lives are honored in the way they’d like them to be. Discuss their ceremony options and make sure they’re aware of the number of personalization choices available to them, including:  

Having this information on hand can also significantly reduce the amount of stress faced by their family during an already stressful time.

6. “Have you checked anything off your bucket list lately?”

This conversation may not be as difficult as others included on this listin fact, it may be the perfect opportunity to take a break from heavy conversations to fulfill a dream of your parents’. 

Whether that wish is for an extensive trip abroad or a chance to see a movie they never got around to as a child, the opportunity to make memories and enjoy the company of your parents is priceless. Some older adults may also appreciate the extra motivation to continue living life to its fullest.

Additional Support For Your Caregiving Journey

Caring for aging parents is an important responsibility—but it can be overwhelming without proper guidance or support. For more information on your role as a caregiver, how to ask for help, and other advice, download our Guide for First Time Family Caregivers.Download our family caregiver guide

Meghan Burmeister
Meghan Burmeister
Skillfully and compassionately manages our Avon and Avon Lake locations. Meghan and her husband, Bill, enjoy vacations with their son Otto, while also supporting community, church and school events. Graciously serving Busch families since 1998.

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