Talking to your parents about their old age can be a difficult conversation.
Unfortunately, their futures are often decided after an incident or a crisis – a fall, a stroke, a sudden decline, or an emergency that calls for a big change to their lives.
So, while talking about the future might be a tricky subject, having the conversation and putting plans in place can put everyone’s mind at ease before their health or safety are at risk. Most importantly, it can help your parents to feel less stressed and unprepared because they’ve been involved in making practical, financial, and emotional choices about their futures.
Here are some of our top tips for talking to your ageing parents about the future:
Honour your parents’ independence
Talking to your parents about their future gets complicated and unproductive quickly when they feel out of control or that you are taking control from them. Approach the conversation with the intention of honouring their choices and helping them make the best decision for themselves.
Respect their independence – most of us fear becoming a burden to our families. It’s the same for your parents. Don’t make them feel guilty or force the conversation if they’re not ready to discuss it.
Open the conversation with an anecdote. The story of a family friend or similar who wanted to live at home but needed some support to run errands and keep up the housework. This presents your parents with a flexible option before discussing the details of what they need and want.
Decide who will ask the questions
Many of you may be enlisting your siblings to help you and your parents plan for their future. It’s a good idea to decide on who will ask the questions so it doesn’t feel like an attack or interrogation. These conversations can become emotional so choose a family member who can calmly and empathetically manage the emotions that might come up.
You or another family member can simply open with ‘We care about you and want you to stay safe and healthy. Have you given any thought about how to do that?’ Be sincere with the questions you ask and be prepared to truly listen to what your parents want.
Although we might know that we need more support as we get older, it might not be a subject your parents have thought about in-depth. Don’t push them for answers immediately if they don’t know. Simply say that you want to help them think it through, and that decisions don’t need to be made immediately.
Let’s be honest, family relationships and dynamics can be complicated, and your history will certainly come up when talking about the future. It’s important that everyone is patient, and that the common goal is enabling your parent’s choices as well as ensuring that they are safe and cared for.
Ask open ended questions that can’t be answered with one word. Similarly, ask questions that get your parents thinking about their future and their preferences:
Talk to them about their current situation – find out if they want to stay in their own home?
What their plans are for the future?
Have they considered what will happen if they fall or have a health episode?
What they want to do?
What don’t they want to do?
How will they pay for it?
What would be their ideal situation?
Return to the subject at another time
Unless your loved one is in a desperate situation or emergency, give yourselves time to revisit the conversation once your parents have had a chance to process their options.
Planning for the future involves where and how you will live, what support you need, legal documents that need to be updated and accessible – these can all be taken one step at a time so that your parents don’t feel overwhelmed or that their dignity and right to choose is being snatched away from them.
Even if your parents are living with Dementia or other cognitive decline, their preferences, needs and wants should still be considered.
Don’t try to force the issue and don’t bring it up when they are in a bad mood, unwell, hungry, tired, or busy. Be transparent, open, and kind for your best chances of having a series of productive conversations.
Being forced to leave their home to live in a retirement home or care facility is something that many Elders dread. And mostly because they feel out of control and that they decision was made for them. Your aging parents can continue to live in their own homes with flexible home care support that can be changed and tailored as their circumstances change.
At the CareCompany, we are committed to person-centred care and finding the right fit for every Elder and their needs. For more information or for an obligation-free home assessment, contact firstname.lastname@example.org today.