5 Ways to Discuss What's Next with Your Aging Parents
No one likes having "the talk" with their aging parents. Discussing your parents' future can be uncomfortable for the whole family, especially if your parents don't want to talk about losing their independence or having health problems. Plenty of people put off having this conversation because it's just too hard to broach the subject.
It's important to talk about the future with your parents, though, and it's better to do it sooner than later. You'll have more peace of mind after an open, honest conversation, and your parents will have more say over their future care if you talk with them while they're still healthy and independent. Here's how to approach this important conversation.
Get your siblings on board first
If you're an only child, ignore this step. If you're going to be sharing caregiving responsibilities with your siblings, though, it's important to talk to them before you sit down with your parents. Make sure all of you are on the same page about what you want for your parents and how you want to divide the responsibilities of care.
Decide when and where to talk
You want to open this conversation when you and your parents are calm, relaxed, and in a good frame of mind. Wait to talk until you and your parents have plenty of time and privacy. Don't bring up the topic over lunch at a restaurant or when your kids are playing nearby. In addition, decide who you want to be there. You may want to ask your siblings to join you as backup.
Approach the subject carefully
Many parents are resistant to talking about their future. That's understandable - the thought of becoming less independent is uncomfortable for most people. That's why you should frame this conversation carefully. Don't make your parent feel like you're trying to take away their independence. Instead, emphasize that you're thinking about their safety and well-being.
For instance, you could approach the subject as a discussion about how you'd care for your parent if a natural disaster struck. This angle won't be quite as uncomfortable for your parent as, "How do you want me to take care of you if you get really sick?"
You could also start the conversation by talking about someone else. For instance, you might say, "My friend's dad had to go to the hospital last week, and it made me think about what would happen if we ever had a family emergency like that. What would you want to happen in that kind of situation?"
Know what you want to get out of the talk
Are you trying to convince your parents that it's time to stop driving? Do you want to discuss aged care services with your parents? Make a road map before you have the conversation, so you know what you're trying to achieve. If your siblings are involved, talk with them to make sure your goals are the same.
Respect your parents' wishes and independence
Getting older is hard. It's frightening for many elderly adults to lose their health and their independence. Keep this in mind when you talk to their parents, and be sensitive to their feelings and needs. Make their well-being and happiness your top priority, and don't make decisions for them if they're still of sound mind.
It's not easy for adult children to talk to their parents about the future. This conversation probably won't be much fun for any of you, even if it goes well. But it's important to know what your parents' needs and wishes are, and the sooner you talk, the better-prepared you'll be to take care of your parents in a way they're happy with. Don't wait - talk to your parents as soon as possible, and you'll all be better off for it.