Talking to your parents about aging and the lifestyle changes it brings can be hard. But talking to them amidst a crisis — such as hospitalization due to a fall or a car accident — can be nearly impossible. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
Why Talking Matters
It’s normal to be nervous to ask your parents about their finances and health. According to the Conversation Project National Survey, 92 percent of people say that talking with their loved ones about end-of-life care is important. Yet only 32 percent have actually done so.
So what happens when you and your parents don’t talk about the future? You don’t know what your parents want, what their plans are, or what role they need you to play. There can be confusion over expectations, unequal caregiving responsibilities, and financial and legal risks.
Nearly one-quarter of people surveyed say they haven’t had these conversations because they don’t want to upset their loved ones. Yet 53 percent say they’d be relieved if a loved one started the conversation.
Taking the time to plan and address common “what ifs” before they actually occur can ease worry and uncertainty. By talking to your parents about long-term health care, finances, and what would potentially trigger a move to a senior living community now, can ensure family members and your aging parent are all on the same page.
3 Conversation Starters
One conversation can make all the difference. Here are three conversation starters for important topics you should be discussing with your aging parents.
1. Do you have long-term care insurance?
Health care costs are often times higher than you or your parent anticipate. Long-term care insurance can be a great way to offset the costs. As your parent ages, costs and types of policies available to them can change dramatically, especially if an event that as put your parents potential future care needs is already on the radar. Bringing up the subject of cost of long-term care earlier rather than later increases the chance that long-term care insurance will be within reach.
2. How is it living at home? Ever wonder about getting a helping hand with housekeeping and laundry?
For some aging adults, asking for help is the first step to losing control of decision-making ability as you age. Keep the line of communication open, and ask your parent what might indicate to them that hiring in help to eliminate some of the household chores would benefit them.
Focus on what your parent wants, not what they don’t want. If the conversation focuses on what they can do with their new-found free time, rather than the fact that your parent is struggling to keep up with housekeeping responsibilities, they are likely to respond positively to the thought of having a little help around the house.
Find the right time to approach conversations about potential care needs that may arise in the future. Talk about if and when your aging parents might want to explore services — from in-home care to assisted living. That way, if there ever is a crisis or an unplanned event that forces your family to make last-minute care arrangements, you’ll be prepared.
3. Do you feel lonely sometimes?
Have you noticed an increase in the number of times your aging loved one calls you a day? This can be a tell-tale sign that your parent is feeling lonely. As we age, interests and activities outside of the home can become more difficult or even become impossible to do. Maybe it’s because your mom’s arthritis has worsened, or maybe it’s because dad can no longer drive. Either way, having conversations about activities that are important to your parent allows you to identify when to talk to them about alternatives that ensure they continue to participate in activities that bring them meaning and joy, even when health changes occur.
Talk to your parent about the interests they have that bring them the greatest joy in life. If transportation becomes a challenge, identify potential solutions that will keep your loved one engaged in the interests and activities they have, and plugged in to others their own age.
Know the signs that it might be time to consider an assisted living community where a wide-variety of activities is readily accessible, and transportation can help your parent feel back in control of managing doctor’s appointments, or making a trip to the grocery store.
No single conversation will cover all the decisions that you and your family will face. Whether you need to talk about moving, driving, or bringing in help, think about these conversations as an opportunity for your family to discover more about your parent.
To hear from seniors who share what they wanted — and what they got — from their adult children, download our eBook What Older Parents Really Want from Their Adult Children.