Discussing Care Issues with Elderly Parents
How do you talk to your elderly parents about aging, and care needed in their home? This is never an easy subject, for many different reasons. They may be in denial…not want you involved…maybe they are embarrassed and frustrated at their own deteriorating health and functionality.
Talking with elderly parents about issues involving their health and finances, their feelings about remaining independent, or their thoughts about their final wishes, can be every bit as difficult as teenage versus parent “talks” you had years ago.
Family conversations on such topics can make all generations uncomfortable. Yet, they need to occur — and often the sooner the better. Realistically, it may be best to engage these subjects when things are going well, before there is a health crisis and decisions need to be made hastily. Adult children need to be open to listening, and not judging, older adults. Try to listen uncritically and treat your elders with the respect and dignity they deserve.
A recent AARP study found that most elderly parents actually feel better about having these kinds of discussions as part of their planning for the future. Such discussions, they say, help them live life the way they wish.
Here are suggestions on ways for adult children to handle such conversations:
1.) Approach the subject indirectly. For example, “I know you’re taking lots of pills. How do you keep track of them? Would a pill organizer from the drug store help you?”
2.) Be direct, but non-confrontational. “You know, Mom, I’m worried that you seem to be unsteady on your feet. I’m wondering how we can help protect you from falls.”
3.) Watch for openings. “Dad, you mentioned having problems with your eyesight. Have you seen the eye doctor lately? Does it seem to affect your driving?”
4.) Share your feelings. “You’ve always been so independent, Mom. I imagine it’s hard to ask for help. You know you can always ask us for help if you need to, or we can find someone who can.”