Having Critical Conversations with Aging Parents

No one wants to think about getting older and what it can mean for them or their family members, but it is a reality for all of us. How many people actually voice how they intend to live the final stages of their lives? It is important for adult children to take the time to have these critical conversations with aging parents, particularly while one’s parents can still make decisions and voice his or her choices.

Often we think we know what our parents would want, but may be quite surprised by their responses to such essential questions like do you want to stay in your own home? Would you like to live in an assisted living facility? What can you actually afford? How much longer do you intend to drive? These conversations shouldn’t just be about medical directives.

Remember this is vital information, which should be heard by all family members/adult children involved if possible, but it is also sensitive. Begin by speaking about your concerns for their health and safety. Be a good listener and keep it about them, not you. No one ever wants to think of themselves as a burden to their children, so carefully choose your words. Go into the conversation prepared with alternatives and information, but allow your parents to be empowered to make the decisions, knowing they have your support. This does not mean you cannot offer options.

Hopefully your family will be able to keep these things in mind as time passes and these instructions become necessary. Don’t wait until a medical emergency or health crisis forces a decision under stressful circumstances that can cause family squabbles, which is always the last thing any parent would want.

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