Tips for Difficult Discussions About Your Parents’ Senior Years
Do Your Research
Before talking to your parents, it’s important that you’re educated about options regarding their healthcare, senior living choices, advanced care directives and end-of-life decisions.
Find out what legal paperwork you might need, and what topics you may want to discuss with your parents. That way, you’ll walk into the conversation prepared and educated.
Plan the Conversation
To avoid rushing into the conversation or catching your parents off guard, let them know ahead of time that you want to discuss something important. The first conversation should take place at your parents’ home, or another place where they feel comfortable. Consider whether you want other family members, an advisor or a good family friend to attend. Sometimes it can be easier to hear concerns from someone outside of the family.
Don’t Tackle Everything at Once
When it comes to planning for your parents’ later years, there’s a lot to cover, so plan on having more than one conversation. Even if your parents are open to talking about their future, a discussion that touches on health concerns, senior living, financial power of attorney, wills and end-of-life care could overwhelm anyone. If your parents are more hesitant, try starting with the least emotional topics to establish comfort.
Avoid Putting Your Parents on the Defensive
It may be helpful to open the conversation with “I” statements instead of “you” statements. For example, saying something like, “You can’t manage your finances anymore” may get your parents’ hackles up. A more loving and thoughtful way of introducing the subject might be: “My friend and her parents are reviewing their personal and financial plans, and it got me thinking that we should do that too. I love you and want to be able to help you for as long as possible.”
After you’ve said your piece, take the time to listen to your parents and find out their underlying fears. Ask open-ended questions like, “Can you tell me why you don’t you want to consider senior living?” Try to come up with solutions that will address their fears. For example, if they are afraid of being lonely, see if you can arrange lunch for you and your parents at a senior living community, allowing them the chance to observe the social atmosphere.
Again, it can be overwhelming to talk about so many important decisions in one sitting. So while it’s important to know ahead of time which issues you would like to discuss, be careful not to appear too businesslike too soon. Although you may want to see certain documents, like long-term care insurance or their will if they’ve created one, your parents might get turned off if you request these items right off the bat.
Furthermore, if your mother or father seems stressed and anxious, it might be better to keep the meeting short and reschedule. Although you do need to get clear about important issues, don’t do this at the expense of the relationship. Above all else, strive to keep discussions from becoming tense or heated, and aim to be persistent without being pushy.
Be Supportive and Respectful
Do what you can to help your parents move forward in planning for the future, but ultimately you must respect your parents’ preferences and allow them to maintain their dignity. Show your empathy and patience instead of disapproval. After all, as much as this matters to you, these big decisions about their lives matter even more to them.
If you or your parents need help planning for the future, or you are interested in senior living, we’d love to help. Give us a call at 888-221-7317 or send us a message anytime.
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