Helping Aging Parents
Your parents are
If it's been a while since
you saw your aging parents, you may be shocked at how your
mother's health status has changed in such a short time. Did
you always have to shout so loud to be heard? Or you may be
stuck by the realization that your dad is actually growing
Was he always so grumpy and
absent-minded? Whatever your situation, the holiday season
is a time to broach that difficult topic of 'what happens
next', and to start making plans for the future.
Questions about your parents
The idea of this discussion
alone may be enough to increase your blood pressure, but no
one ever said that discussing your aging parents' future
would be easy. Many of us are used to our parents asking the
questions - "so what are you going to do with your
How many times have you
heard that one? And yet now, as your parent's current or
potential caregiver, it's up to you to start asking the
difficult questions regarding your parents' medical,
financial and housing plans and arrangements.
Aging is inevitable
So why is it so difficult
for children of aging parents to discuss the future? Each
situation is obviously different, but for some of us it may
be the sudden reversal of roles that seems so strange, or
the fact that we are now meddling in our parents' personal
There may also be a
reluctance to admit that the inevitable has happened; our
parents have aged and that means that we too will most
likely grow old some day.
It's never too soon
Yes, it's a tough
conversation to initiate, but remember that it's never too
soon to discuss the future with your aging parent. Why?
Because it's easier to make plans before a crisis, such as a
fall or a stroke, catches everyone off guard. It's much
better to have a plan in place early, rather than scrambling
around at the last moment. Also, many issues such as
arranging for long term care insurance or finding a place in
a nursing home must be taken care of well in advance.
So plan your approach and
timing carefully and you may be pleasantly surprised.
Chances are, if it's a subject on your mind, it is on your
elder's mind too.
to your parents
Although this looming
conversation may feel like one of the hardest things you've
ever had to do, don't let your elder sense that. While it's
a good idea to plan the topics you'd like to cover, and the
decisions and conclusions you'd like to reach, try not to
make the conversation appear too prepared and scripted.
After all, remember what this is meant to be - a
conversation between two people. Be prepared to listen to
what your parent has to say; she may have some pretty clear
plans of her own already.
Here are some tips and
pointers to help you try and make the conversation go
- Don't let your questions
appear as though you are interrogating. If you are
sensitive and show genuine interest and concern, chances
are your loved one will open up to you.
- Be supportive and
empathetic, not judgmental. The last thing you want is
to appear threatening and put her on the defense.
- Ask open-ended
questions, giving your parent the opportunity to share
the circumstances in her life with you.
- Be prepared to accept
your parent's decisions and point of view, even if you
find it hard to agree; remember, it's her life you are
- Don't overwhelm your
loved one with questions. It may take several
discussions over a period of days to cover all the areas
you feel are important. However, be sure to make a
definite time for the next discussion or there is a
danger that the subject is brushed back under the
- This may be a good time
to share your thoughts and plans for your own aging. Let
your loved one feel that she's not alone in her