How To Talk To Aging Parents About Their Future
As your parents get older, you may find yourself worrying about their health and well-being. Are they still able to drive or get around safely? Are they eating ok? How is their emotional state – are they lonely or depressed? And how can you help when you can’t be there every day? When you’re not sure if it’s safe for your aging parents to continue to live alone, it’s time for a conversation about their future plans.
For many of us, this can feel like a big deal. It can be hard to switch roles, particularly if your parents haven’t been open to change or to sharing their plans in the past. But it’s an important conversation – and one that can be positive as long as you’re prepared!
What’s Changed? How Aging Has Affected Your Parents
The first step is to pinpoint your biggest issues of concern.
Have you seen signs that your parent’s eyesight or mobility is failing?
These can affect your loved one’s ability to get around, including getting to physician’s appointments or to get fresh groceries.
Have they lost or gained weight?
Lack of access to nutritious food can cause a cascade of health issues – whether it’s because they don’t feel up to cooking for one or they don’t have easy access to fresh produce.
Are you noticing mood changes or irrational behavior in your parents?
Mood changes can be an early sign of dementia or it could be a symptom of depression – all too common in seniors that are lonely or feel isolated. If you suddenly feel you’re dealing with irrational behavior in your elderly parents, it’s a sign of a bigger concern.
Are you seeing signs of neglect in your parent’s home?
Whether because cleaning is becoming difficult or eyesight changes means your parent no longer notices the dust, a change in housekeeping can be a red flag – and it can be dangerous. Cluttered areas can increase your parent’s risk of falling, and unsanitary areas can lead to health issues.
Has your loved one recently had an accident or health scare?
As we age, recovering from serious illness or accident can take a lot longer and may require additional support, including physical therapy, medication management or assistance with bathing or eating.
These are just some of the red flags that may be telling it’s time to have a conversation about senior living with your parents. Once you’ve determined what you’re most worried about, you can feel more confident in talking with your parents on how you can fix it – together.
Approaching the Conversation With Love
When you approach your parents with your worries for the future, it’s important to do so with love and respect. We’re all much more open to difficult conversations if we know that we’re being heard and understood. You want them to know you want to come to best decision together, not deliver an ultimatum.
One way to do this is by starting with questions and really listening to the answers. You’ve already identified the signs that have concerned you … your mother or father may already be sharing those concerns and welcome to the chance to talk about it! Or the changes may have happened so gradually from their perspective that this feels new – giving them the time and space to consider before they answer can help.
If you’re worried about their ability to get around, ask them if they’ve had any issues, whether it’s getting the driveway cleared in bad weather, carrying groceries in or making it to appointments.
If they’re showing signs of poor nutrition, talk to them about if cooking has become harder physically or if they’re just not inspired to cook.
If the house seems to be neglected, you certainly don’t want it to come across as a criticism of their housekeeping – you might get reminded of your own teenage years! – but asking them if they feel like they’re having trouble keeping up with the house – when done with love and care – can open up a great dialogue.
If they’ve been having mood swings or other changes in personality, talk with them about whether they’re feeling lonely, isolated or stressed. Asking them if there’s anything you should know from their latest doctor’s appointments can also be a way of easing into the conversation.
You may find that you’re both on the same page from the very beginning!
What If Your Parents Don’t See a Problem?
In an ideal world, as soon as you raise your concerns, your parents would agree or have perfect explanations that reassure you that it’s all fine. But that may not happen! Your parents may dismiss your concerns or be unwilling to really talk about them.
If that’s the case, don’t try to force the issue unless you have serious reason to believe that your parent is in immediate danger. Instead, ask them if they’d be willing to revisit the conversation in several months while they think about it. And ask them if in the meantime, they’d be willing to explore options with you – like scheduling visits to a senior living community like The Atriums to see what it’s like. Senior living communities today aren’t the nursing homes of yesterday – once your parents have a chance to get more familiar with the services and amenities they offer and even start building friendships with current residents, a transition to senior living may suddenly seem appealing!
Contact us today to start the conversation – our staff at The Atriums is ready to help.