Having a conversation about the future can be difficult with aging parents. Try as you might be respectful and considerate, the topics are sensitive, and tensions can run high. When it comes time to have “the talk,” refer back to this guide and use it as a springboard for discussion.
- Driving Skills
This might be the first area you notice signs of your parents’ struggles. Unless your parents are incapable of driving safely, this doesn’t have to be an ‘either-or’ conversation. Instead, try a reduction in miles as an effective approach. Don’t present the suggestion as a total loss of driving mobility. Try to propose restricting driving to certain routes or times based on their needs and capability. Your parent probably knows that certain instances cause them more stress while driving, and they won’t want to be a danger to others. When it’s time to take away the keys for good, they’ll probably feel ready. Remember without driving ability or public transportation, many seniors fear feeling trapped and isolated, so treat this conversation delicately.
- Financial Condition
Money is awkward to talk about at any stage in life. Explain to your parents that understanding certain things about their financial situation will enable you to help them. If they’re reluctant to talk, perhaps they’re worried you’ll be critical of their decisions. Remember to ask these essential questions:
-Legal Matters. Have they done any estate planning? Is there an executor, or power of attorney, over a will or trust? Do they have a mortgage, and if so, what are its terms? Where are these documents located?
-Income/Expenses. Is your parent receiving any income? What are they expending money on? Do they have assets that require active management?
-Financial Records. Where are the bank, savings, and credit union accounts? Where do they keep past tax records? What are usernames and passwords for online financial accounts?
- Health Concerns
Bodies begin to break down as aging sets in. If your parents have mobility issues requiring a cane, walker, or wheelchair, they should consider modifying their home to accommodate their condition. Propose a MobileHelp medical alert system for emergency assistance in the event of an accident. They might feel insulted by your perceived ineptitude, so stress that it’s just for peace of mind.
- Living Assistance
As functionality becomes more difficult, living assistance can offer services for meal preparation, medication management, transferring, and hygiene. Private nursing care can get expensive, so it’s worth asking your parent if they’ve ever considered staying in an assisted living facility. To help arrive at the right decision, ask them the most important aspect of their lives, what gives them the most pleasure, what they hope for, and how they want to live.
- End of Life Instructions
This one’s probably the most difficult conversation to have with your parent. In addition to wills or trusts, end of life instructions include burials and bequests. The parent might consider imposing a living will, or a “do not resuscitate”, for their last days of care to free their loved ones of difficult decisions. Be mindful of ongoing instructions, such as the need to care for a pet.
Other considerations for these conversations include:
- How will you begin? Don’t launch into any of these conversations like a blitz attack. Your parent will likely be caught off guard, causing them to respond defensively. Instead, ease into the conversation with some small talk. Use events in the news or situations amongst family friends to your advantage.
- When will you start? The best time to introduce these talking points is now. Begin these discussions while your parent is still sound of mind. By using time to your advantage and starting slowly, they’ll be less overwhelmed.
- Who will be present during these talks? Ideally, everyone in the family should be involved, but that’s not always possible. In that case, be sure to communicate the results of your conversation to the members who couldn’t make it.
- Where will hold the conversation? Find a quiet place that will allow your parent to feel calm and collected. Choose a location where he or she is comfortable, and be sure to set aside plenty of time so no one feels rushed.
- Why did you bring it up? The most important thing to remember when having these talks is that it’s not about you. Be sure to stress your selflessness in each of these conversations and always prioritize your parent and their well-being.