Advice Assisted Living

How To Have “The Talk” With Your Parents About Aging

Adult children talking with parents
15
May '19

Have you noticed your parents are starting to need more help around the house, or are having trouble managing their medications or eating properly? As you and your parents plan for the future, it’s important to talk to them about aging and quality of life.

Flipping the caregiver role can be difficult, but it’s imperative to start the conversation sooner rather than later – you want to be able to make proactive, rather than reactive decisions in an emergency situation.

Planning ahead will make conversations easier and more productive and give your parents more time to adjust to any changes related to aging. Open and collaborative conversations that focus on what your parents want and need will help you better prepare for the future.

Mike Myers, regional director at Benchmark Senior Living and a leader in senior living explains how to introduce the topic and how to make the conversations as successful as possible.

Start the conversation early.

Before having a formal conversation with them, take an interest in their current activities. Learn what they enjoy, who they like to spend time with and if any daily tasks are getting more difficult. Begin organically mentioning the benefits of a senior living community in everyday conversations.

  • Parent: “I really enjoy participating in group exercise classes, but it can be difficult to drive to the senior center every day.”
  • Adult child: “I’ve heard New Pond Village offers daily group exercises classes in their on-campus gym so you don’t need to drive.”

Planting seeds with casual conversation can help make more serious discussions down the road a little easier. A good place to being is while driving in the car or waiting for a movie to begin, a slight distraction will help reduce any discomfort during the conversation.

Once you are ready for a serious conversation; Consider writing an outline to organize your thoughts.

Frame the conversation around the most important considerations for older adults: safety, freedom, peace of mind, social connection and being able to make choices. Emphasize there aren’t “right” or “wrong” options or ideas. Use your outline during your conversation to make sure you communicate your opinions clearly. Include questions to keep the conversation going.

Be respectful and considerate.

Put yourself in their shoes. Let them know you care about how they feel and what they want. Be a good listener. Let them talk and really listen, even if you don’t agree or what they say makes you think about your own aging.

  • “I’ve noticed some things take more energy these days. What are the important things you really want to do?”
  • “What are your priorities? Is there a way we can make it easier for you to do those things?”
  • Mention how much you admire the way they’ve handled retirement. Ask for advice on what has worked well for them so that you can learn from them.
  • Use an event in the news or a story about an aging family member or friend. Say, “We never talk about these things. I don’t want to pry, but it would give me peace of mind to know there’s a plan if we need it.”

Who will be there and where will this happen?

Involve everyone in the family who should be there. Plan for plenty of time to talk in a quiet place where your parents will feel calm and can focus on the conversation.

Do a practice run.

If you’re nervous about the conversation, run your ideas past a professional – a social worker at a local agency or senior center, a therapist or someone at your church or local hospital. Local senior living communities also have professionals who can help.

It may take more than one conversation for your parent to feel comfortable with the decision. Be patient and allow your parents to ask questions. By not forcing or rushing a decision, you are letting them know that they have control, which will ultimately help them through any fears or resistance. Consider taking a tour of a local senior living community or connecting your parent with a current resident for them to talk and share their stories.

It may take more than one conversation for your parent to feel comfortable with the decision. Be patient and allow your parents to ask questions. By not forcing or rushing a decision, you are letting them know that they have control, which will ultimately help them through any fears or resistance. Consider taking a tour of a local senior living community or connecting your parent with a current resident for them to talk and share their stories.

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