The difficult conversation you need to have with your aging parents

The difficult conversation you need to have with your aging parents

At some point in their life, as they age, our parents will need help in handling their daily errands. And quite often, they resist any extra attention, especially if it’s focused on their personal matters.

Sooner or later, we all must have those conversations with our parents about their future. A conversation that can be difficult for us and frustrating for them.

Parents find these talks irritable, because when you start discussing assistance with life, care, financial management, it signals to them that they are no longer independent enough to handle those parts of their life. Usually they reject your suggestions under the reason that they don’t want to give up these important decisions or simply that they don’t want anyone else to meddle with their day-to-day life. Hopefully these tips will be of great use when having those difficult conversations with your parents.

Timing

Most people start to think about the care for their parents, their financial management and end of life choices when a serious medical emergency occurs. But, this is probably NOT a good time to have those talks. The stress and anxiety from the medical issue can have a huge effect on your parent’s mental state and they won’t be able to dedicate enough time or energy to thoroughly discuss these very important questions.

It’s best to bring up these topics gradually and earlier on. Be proactive and talk with your parents when they are still fit and relaxed. This way they can dedicate enough time and focus on the topic and you can have a clearer image on how to manage the conversation in the future.

Patience Is A Virtue

Discussing your parent’s care, finances and end of life choices are not an easy task. Make sure that you don’t “jump” into the topic and expect immediate decisions. Instead, try to have an open mind and patience. After all, this is a very sensitive topic for your parents.

Don’t set any milestones and goals for your first talk. Some parents even tend to postpone this conversation for another time. So start small, gradually, with simple suggestions and try to get your parents used to having someone around to help them out.

It’s not easy to make your parents realize that they need help. So be prepared for rejection and avoidance in the beginning. But in case there’s an immediate financial or health crisis, you will need to discuss the issue fast and achieve a solution. In these cases, you will need to be persistent.

Circumstances and Conditions

Determining the right time and place to have these conversations with your parents might not be easy, but it’s doable. Observe your regular conversations and see if you can determine when will they be most receptive to discuss end-of-life issues.

This topic should be brought up as preference and suggestion in a calm, private and comfortable environment.

Come Prepared

In order to have a fruitful conversation with your aging parents, you need to drive the conversation from hypothetical suggestions to concrete solutions. Beofre you even begin talking about care, financial management and end-of-life decisions, make sure that you’re well prepared.

Do your homework, research the local care resources that are available. First and foremost, think about what kind of impact will the additional care have on your parent’s life. In case your parents will require frequent monitoring and assistance, inform yourself how in-home care will be helpful with their daily routine while still maintaining their independence.

Involve other family members

Just like your parents don’t have to go through certain stages of their life alone, you also don’t have to make all the decisions yourself. If you have concerns or observations, make sure that you share them with your immediate family members, preferably your siblings. They can provide a fresh perspective and suggest solutions that you haven’t thought of.

The key is to focus on your parent’s best interest and to come to a resolution together in order to avoid future disputes. Make sure that you keep your siblings updated on your parent’s well-being and health status in order to avoid unpleasant surprises or uncomfortable confrontations.

Empathy

Approaching the twilight phase of their life or losing their independence can be emotionally hard on your parents. You need to address these concerns with empathy and discuss their hospice care and health choices.

Listen to your parents

When focusing on helping your parents, make sure that you don’t dismiss them and that you listen to what they have to say. When having these difficult conversations, your parents might seem distant, reject the idea of someone helping them, so you need to consider that they use this approach to:

  • Try to hide their fear or anger
  • Cover up the things they regret and want to change
  • Mask the disappointment of not achieving certain life goals

What you can do is help them find closure and offer suggestions when they ask for it. Once these issues are resolved, it will be much easier to discuss the current and future plans.

Don’t force things

Sensitive end-of-life conversations should not be held in an unhealthy and uncomfortable environment. Using forceful language or tone will create a feeling that you’re trying to pressure them which will make creating plans and goals even more difficult. Suggesting change should be done gradually, so that your parents can adjust their views and try and see a different picture. Having a gentle approach will surely lead to better outcomes than to forcing your opinion on them.

Don’t be afraid to seek help

Not all of us are qualified or experienced enough to determine the right course of action for our aging parents. So don’t be embarrassed to ask for professional help from lawyers or other professionals that can help you draft important documents. These people work with a very diverse clientele and can provide the best advice on how to move forward.

Make notes

What you and your parents discuss today, might not be relevant in a few months. These conversations change in time, depending on your parents’ lifestyle and health. In order to make future conversations easier, make sure that you take notes on what resolutions have you made and what were your parents’ thoughts.

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