If we’re lucky enough to have parents who live to an old age, we may also be unlucky enough to need to have some pretty uncomfortable conversations with them about aging and plans for future care. Though discussing heavy topics such as illness, loss of mobility, and after-life plans are no one’s picnic, there are a few things you can do to help it go smoother.
- First and foremost, be sensitive. Coming right out and demanding your loved one relinquish their car keys after many years of driving independence is bound to be met with some resistance and resentment. Put yourself in their shoes and appreciate how difficult it is for many seniors to change a way of life that they’ve lived for decades. Approach these conversations from a place of concern, so that they are less likely to be interpreted as criticism or an attack on their capabilities.
- Give them options. Ask them what they want to do, instead of telling them what’s going to happen. Try to give your loved one as many alternatives as is available. What are their choices in terms of elder-care? Is hiring a visiting caregiver a way for Mom to stay in her own home a little while longer? Are you able to offer your own home to them, or would they prefer to live in a retirement community and be able to socialize with others? These major life transitions will be easier to digest if they feel like a choice that they made, and not a situation that was forced upon them.
- Initiate the conversation and know when to be insistent. As unpleasant as the idea of talking to your parents about things like end-of-life care or moving out of their own home may be, putting it off for too long may come at the expense of their health or safety, or potentially someone else’s. Seniors with conditions like memory loss, poor eyesight, or decreased motor functions may be legitimately dangerous behind the wheel of a car or left home alone all day. Waiting until something dangerous happens to have the tough conversations won’t benefit anyone.
Sometimes it takes an outside perspective for us to realize when we need help. Feelings may still be hurt, and there’s bound to be a sense of mourning for a way of life that no longer can be, and that cannot be helped. But, offering your thoughts, assistance, and observations in a respectful manner and making your senior a part of the planning process is all within your control.
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