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?”