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Starting The Conversation Over The Holidays
For years, your parents have helped you through life’s most challenging situations. It is likely that you have sought their input and advice all of your life. The time has come for a reversal of these roles.
Having a conversation with your parents about aging is just one of those things most of us eventually face. In fact, when it comes to having the conversation about senior living, you might say it’s always too soon until it’s too late. There will never be an exact “right time.”
We are committed to helping you and your older adult parent(s) begin a dialogue today. Through this conversation, you can plan as a family for your parents’ transition into old age. We will support you in finding a senior living option that best suits your family’s needs.
Time to Have a Conversation
It might be difficult to discuss with your aging parent(s) the issues involved with getting older, needing help, or the idea of moving to a senior living community, but it is better to start this conversation when they are healthy rather than after they are in the midst of a health crisis.
We all tend to put off thoughts about our own aging process and will end up having not planned for the future. Who wants to think about needing help with eating, walking, bathing, or going to the bathroom? If you approach the issues involved with your parents’ aging with respect and you involve them this conversation does not have to be so stressful.
More often than not, these important conversations about senior living do not happen. Even though both generations have thought about what will happen next, few seem to act on it. By sitting down at the table, you and your aging parent have the opportunity to ask the right questions, plan a visit together to one of out Platinum Communities assisted care facilities.
This will reassure your parent that (s)he will be taken care of as they age. It will also provide comfort as you learn more about your parent’s wishes and values as they age. This article is designed to help educate you on how to start the conversation and support you as you walk with your parents on their aging journey.
Studies show that few families have these types of conversations until a major event occurs. Often it begins with a visit home by children during which time it becomes apparent that Mom or Dad is having trouble with normal daily activities. Although it is critical to bring up these subjects before a crisis arises, you should keep it casual. Don’t overwhelm Mom and Dad. Let them feel your love and concern.
Remember, helping your parents to plan for the future is not only important for their well-being as they age, but it will also have a positive impact on your emotional well-being.
Planning for the Future
Older adults are living longer than they once did. This often includes living with chronic disease, challenges associated with limited mobility and other issues of advanced age.
Anyone with an aging parent or parents needs to discuss the possibility of them needing help and their plans for the future. Chances are, if you are thinking about this so are your parents.
Your parents are likely already confronting the issues of aging, their bodies changing, slowing down, and maybe in some ways, failing. They have also seen their siblings and friends experience this as well. They are far more familiar with what it means to get older than you are.
It can be extremely difficult to make the right decisions after a crisis has hit if you have not discussed this and already planned ahead. Planning ahead can avoid some of the potential problems ahead. Ideally, you should plan together before a major crisis has occurred, such as a bad accident or illness.
It would be helpful to review a few important concepts before having a conversation with your folks. This preparation, combined with a respectful and supportive approach, will clear a path for a successful outcome. The best advice is to plan carefully and to visualize conversations in advance so that they can be positive and productive. Take notes on what you think needs to be discussed so you have a plan that will help guide your conversation and help you remember important questions.
It is best to start these conversations while your aging parents are in fairly good health. That way you do have the time to build slowly and have conversations about each area of their life and health without undue pressure. Outline the areas you want to address. Even without your outline in front of you, it will help you organize your thoughts before you begin the conversation.
The Holidays are a Perfect Setting
When is the best time to talk to your parents about these topics? The holidays are a joyous time when families come together to share and celebrate. Use this to your family’s advantage. Instead of setting a time or making a date to discuss important issues in can be naturally incorporated into your holiday conversations and interactions.
How to Start
Maybe you, your spouse, or one of your siblings will have to assist your parents around the house. You might ask them how they would have handled this particular situation if the family had not been there to assist. Ask them to consider how their lives will be changing as time passes and they need more and more help.
If you approach your family gathering with love in your heart and attention to opportunities to discuss the numerous issues to be addressed as your parents get older you will find many instances to ask questions and to get them thinking about what their needs will be in the years ahead.
Beginning this conversation is really a wonderful gift you can give your parents and your entire family. Think of it a way to honor your parents and help them look forward to what comes next in their lives.
Try not to approach this important opportunity as one conversation but as an ongoing series of conversations. Address one issue at a time rather than trying to resolve everything at once. It is less intimidating that way. What you’re trying to establish is an ongoing, honest conversation about everything related to your parent’s future.
Since most families spend an extended period of time together during the holidays it offers a unique opportunity for ongoing conversations. Take advantage of this time together to talk through these issues with your parents and the rest of the family. Honor and consider everyone’s input.
Trust Your Judgement
You don’t need to try to get all the answers immediately. You don’t need an answer at all today. Only a solid foundation is necessary. An understanding of your parent’s feelings, wishes and needs is what’s essential. You want to receive and share information. No need for the high pressure techniques.
Since it is likely that you will be interacting with your parents a multitude of times over the course of the holidays “pick your spots.” You probably don’t want to first bring this up as you sit down to Christmas dinner, but if you have already been discussing these issues over the course of the day(s) then why not discuss it then.
Just use your best judgement. If you have prepared yourself for these conversations as we suggested earlier then go with your heart and begin talking when it feels right. Remember your parents have also been thinking about this and probably don’t know how or when to talk about it either. You might actually encounter a sense of relief when you first bring up the topic.
A shift in your relationship with your parents might also occur as you guide these conversations, but you should not consider yourself the expert or that you “know what is best.”
Here are key considerations when preparing to start the senior living conversation:
- Soul Searching – Begin with some soul searching and consider your personal point of view. Why do you want to have these conversations? What do you want for yourself and for your parents? Do you have fears or concerns? If so, what are they? What would be your best-case scenario? What do you want to happen?
- Include Everyone – Contact your siblings and all family members who should be part of the discussion about how and when to have the conversation with your parents. Even if they cannot be present it is good to collaborate with family members, get their input and know that you mutually support each other throughout your parents aging process.
- Practice Empathy – Walk in your parents’ shoes. Be sensitive and empathetic. Approach the conversation with respect and a caring heart. Ask them how they are doing. Ask them if they’re still able to do the things they want. Let them know you care about how they are, how they feel about their own aging and what they want the rest of their life to be like.
- Listen – Be prepared to listen. Sometimes you are afraid to hear what parents are feeling because it also makes you face getting older. Let them talk and let them know you hear them. Be open to asking questions and hearing the complete answer before offering an opinion or advice. Listening shows respect — a key ingredient for a successful outcome.
- Questions – One way to start a conversation is by asking a question: “Gee, Dad, I’m considering long-term care insurance – what do you think? Do you have any?” or, “Mom, I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about planning for later years. I’m going to revise my will and make sure my legal documents are all set. What about you – can we talk about this for you?”