Seniors Care

Holidays are traditionally festive times, when families gather to share good food and good company and to make memories. It is a time when everyone is on their best behavior, trying to keep old sibling rivalries and the like on the back burner. For many of us this is one of the only times all or most of the family is together, from aging parents to their baby boomer children to grandchildren, etc. Since the whole family is not together often, and especially in those cases where the parents live far away from the rest of the family, this is an opportune time to start an important conversation that has to do with the safety, security, and happiness of our parents as they grow older.

As baby boomers we are feeling the effects of aging, but most of us still have a great deal of vitality in our bodies and minds. Now it is our parents who need our help, and they need to know that we, their “babies,” are more than willing to work to secure the future of the heads of the family.

If you have never had the conversation, though, the thought could lie heavy on your mind. How in the world will you bring it up in the midst of holiday tradition? How can you approach the subject with parents in a way that is not threatening, but that opens the door to getting it right?

And before you stop reading this because the subject is too difficult, please know that there is no better time than now to start the conversation. Now is not the time to put our heads in the sand and hope someone else will have this conversation with our parents, or hope somehow miraculously that we just won’t have to talk about it. The reality is that if we don’t, there is a good chance that when the time comes when our parents really need the help, we will be scrambling for a plan.

So let’s assume you are seriously considering starting a dialogue about health and long term planning with your family as you gather to celebrate tradition. You are probably stressing a bit about how in the world to approach the subject without it being really awkward and off-putting. Let’s look at some points that might help you on your way:

 

Expect resistance. Resistance will likely come from your parents, but it could also come from other family members who have not been clued into the need for the talk. And what do you do with this resistance if it does emerge? You acknowledge it. It will take some people more time than others to get into the swing of talking openly about this issue, but you can bet that if you resist their resistance (whether overt or subtle), any discussions on this subject may take longer and be a lot more painful.

 

Educate yourself. Take some time to research the aging process, and what experts recommend should be included in discussions. You will want to understand concepts such as Living Wills, powers of attorney, long term and residential care, and financial planning. You will also want to have some knowledge of resources in your parents’ community, including senior activities and alternative transportation availability.

 
Evaluate current issues that need to be addressed. The current physical, mental, and financial health of your parents will play a massive role in the direction and urgency of this discussion. If there is an issue that needs to be addressed, you will need to thread that into your conversation about the plan in the short term. Consider, for instance, how you as a family might address the needs of a parent whose eyesight is failing, and whose ability to safely drive a car is or will soon be in question? How are you going to help them feel they can maintain their independence with the keys gone? What if your mother seems to be exhibiting symptoms of mild dementia? How are you going to plan for her need to continue to cook the holiday turkey while making sure she does not leave the stove on?

 
Bring other family members into the process. Give other family members a heads up that you will be broaching the issue; give them an opportunity to raise any concerns of course, but do make sure that you are all on somewhat of the same page before you start the discussion with them in the same room. This is not a time to do battle with each other in front of your parents, but rather to rally for the sake of the family. On the other hand, you don’t want it to appear to be a “conspiracy” pitting parents against children.

 
Begin the discussion by speaking from your heart. Your parents are going to be able to embrace this idea now and moving forward if they hear from your heart first. You are their child, and you are concerned. Parents will tend to not think of themselves first (doesn’t matter how old you are – you are still their baby); if they truly believe that this is important to you they are more likely to listen.

 
Listen. The importance of your actively listening to your parents throughout this discussion cannot be overstated. Just because their bodies are aging (we only just need to look at ourselves to understand), does not mean your parents’ need for being able to make choices in their lives has diminished. In fact, many elders, in living through the increasing limitations brought on by not being able to move as well as they did, will desperately resist anything that appears to restrict other choices they still can make. So listen, and incorporate their choices into any recommendations about next steps. Keep in mind some of the critical issues that will be front and center, including your parents’ financial security, and need for independence, relationships, and, of course, peace of mind.

 
We at Property Focus are also here to help you. We will be expanding on the topic of having this conversation with aging parents over the next few months, but we are also here if you would like to call to chat. We can direct you to professionals who advise you on financial considerations, for instance, and if the time comes when you might need our services in the real estate and senior housing fields, we are here to sit down with you to develop a great plan.

 
Remember: There is no better time than now to start planning for the eventuality that your parents are going to need you to help them plan for the future. Preparing now will help you and your family sustain and possibly enhance quality of life for everyone, as you all enjoy family milestones together with the peace of mind that comes with having a plan that works for everyone.

 

 

 

Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Tags