It is a difficult task to have conversations with your parents that center around the aging process. Perhaps you’re picking up on subtle signs that your aging parents are beginning to need more assistance in everyday activities, or certain things are being neglected more than usual. You might see stacks of unopened mail or piled up laundry, or a dirty house when there normally isn’t one. Whatever the case, it might be time to start chatting with your parents about the changes that accompany aging. But how do you start that conversation? We’ve got some tips!
First of all, remember that it’s better to talk about these things before a situation strikes that brings a lot of stress, such as illness or injury. Give them time to process the things you talk about and remember that it will take more than just one chat. Keep in mind that seniors are almost always afraid of losing their independence above anything else, so it’s important to approach this topic with the utmost of respect and sensitivity! Just like our children, you must make them feel loved first before they can hear the things you are trying to convey! Nobody will easily listen to life-changing information if they don’t first feel respected. That’s just human nature.
Here are some helpful guidelines to get the conversation started:
1. Organize your thoughts on paper. Write down the most crucial points that you want to cover. Don’t do too much at one time—there will be time to talk more at a later date. The goal is to help them understand all things being suggested are only to give them a better life, with peace of mind, and freedom to be in control.
2. ALWAYS remain respectful! We are taught early on as children to honor and obey our parents and that should never change as we grow older. When your parents become elderly, it’s more important than ever for them to feel respected. Not only is this a testament to their good parenting through the years, but it also opens their hearts to hear what you have to say. Help them know that you are on THEIR side and any solutions will be found together.
3. Include the rest of the family. If you have siblings who also want to be active in the care of your parents, they should also be invited to join the conversation, so everyone can solve the challenges together. Everyone needs to feel heard—especially your parents.
4. Have a “rehearsal.” If you are scared or nervous about how this talk will go down, take a few minutes to talk to a trusted friend, pastor, or even a physician, and do a practice run. This role-play can help you work out the bugs in the plan and foresee any potential snags.
5. Ease into the conversation with ice-breakers. You might start by stating what you’ve noticed, such as your parents becoming more tired easily, or not getting out to do the things they normally love doing, such as socializing or gardening. Then you can move on to questions that will help cover the needed subject matter. Consider a question like:
“Mom, what can we do as your children to help ease your burdens and help you feel as stress-free as possible?”
You might talk about finances by first stating how much you respect the way they have raised you and how they’ve handled their own money matters. Ask for their advice, then talk at length on financial issues.
You can gently express how much it would mean to you if they could help you have peace of mind by having final arrangements in place. Although it’s hard to talk about those things, it would be wonderful to know that everything that your parents want will be honored. When they know that you want to honor them in every way, you will often find that they open their ears and hearts to hear your concerns and actively participate in the adjustments that come with aging parents.
For more information on helping your aging parents live their best life, contact us today!
Home Helpers of Greater Milwaukee is a locally-owned, trusted home health care agency and offers quality, compassionate senior in-home care services including home care assistance, personal care, companion care, respite care, Alzheimer's & dementia care as well as homemaker services in Mequon, Milwaukee, Fox Point, Bayside, River Hills, Whitefish Bay, Cedarburg, Germantown, Grafton, Menomonee Falls, Brown Deer, Port Washington, Wauwatosa, West Bend, Hartford, Sussex, West Allis, Butler, Colgate, Fredonia, Greendale, Hales Corners, Saukville, Slinger, Richfield, Jackson, Thiensville, and Hubertus, Wisconsin.