How to Talk to Elderly Parents About Caregiving & Lifestyle Changes
If you’re over 40 years old, you may be starting to worry about your parents’ plan for their golden years. This is normal, and planning for their seniority is essential for their future wellbeing. Today, more than 30 million households are caring for an aging adult, and that number is only going to grow.
However, most families don’t have plans for their aging family members until it’s too late. By talking to your family members — and most importantly, your aging parent — adult children can avoid the stress, tension, and financial strife of last-minute scrambling for senior care. Now is the next best time to make a caregiving plan.
Talking to Aging Parents About Changes to Their Lifestyles
The most important thing to remember when you’re planning for your parents’ senior years is that their wishes must be respected. A caregiving plan will not be successful without the consent of the people who will be on the receiving end of such care.
Thus, the first step to crafting a care plan is to talk to your parents. What do they see for their future? What freedoms do they want to maintain? What goals do they have? Are there any changes they want to make?
Talking about your parents’ money, health, needs for assisted living, driving abilities, ongoing care, and relocation are all essential topics that need to be discussed.
How to Talk to Elderly Parents About Caregiving, Assisted Living, and Other Care
Aging can be a scary journey to embark upon. The loss of control, freedom, and mobility are sensitive topics for parents to address, and adult family members should treat these topics with delicacy. The following are tried and true tips for how to approach the topic of a care plan for your aging parents and to have successful conversations about these difficult topics.
Research and Prepare
Approaching your parent in a thoughtful, well-informed, and empathetic manner is a key step to ensuring the success of your conversation. You should research the progression of aging diseases, so that you can better determine what — if any — medical care your parent could require. Identifying other concerns and prioritizing them is also a great way to organize yourself for the upcoming care discussion.
You should also reflect whether you’re the best person to have this conversation with your parent. Is there another family member who could be more successful? How do you think your parent is going to react to this kind of conversation?
Generally, there are two types of parents: The kind that had a close relationship with their family — where they can talk about anything and feel listened to — and the type that’s more private and likely to brush off any concerns about aging.
It’s best to stay aware of your interpersonal dynamic with your parent and how they may react, but try to avoid projecting any preconceived notions about how they’ll react. The most private parent may surprise you by expressing their own concerns about aging in place.
Lastly, prepare yourself to discuss what they want and need in their future. As mentioned above, your parents’ wishes should be the driving force of their caregiving plan.
Employ Great Communication
You can’t have a productive conversation with your parent if their feelings and opinions aren’t respected. By making sure that you’re enacting good communication skills, you can make sure that your parents walk away feeling positive about your discussion.
Here are some tips to help with communication:
- Listen to and empathize with your loved one.
- Use “I” statements when discussing your feelings and thoughts.
- Be straightforward and don’t hide negative information — but focus on your family’s support and strength.
- Pose questions that allow your loved ones to come to their own conclusions.
- Validate your parent’s feelings, even if they’re angry or sad, and react calmly.
- Don’t escalate the situation.
Utilizing these communication techniques can leave your parents feeling heard and in control.
Make It an Ongoing Discussion
Adult children can run into the false belief that they need to have all of the solutions now — but this isn’t true. As long as your parent is healthy and able, nothing needs to be decided immediately. In fact, making the conversation an ongoing one can ensure productive discussions.
On that note, resist any urge that you have to push your parents to make a choice. Any negative reinforcement can result in your parents rejecting attempts to create a plan.
Form a Team and Take Action
The phrase “it takes a village” isn’t just applicable to raising a child — ensuring that your senior loved one is safe and well cared for in their golden years is also a team effort. It’s a lot of responsibility for one person to bear. Having multiple family members to help the process along is a great way to make the whole enterprise easier.
Recruit family members that your parent can trust and feel comfortable with. Assign different parts of the plan to different people so that the responsibility will be shared and appoint a leader. The leader won’t be the one to make unilateral decisions, but having a leader to drive the plan forward and ensure that everyone is doing their part can be very helpful.
This team can’t succeed if your parent isn’t a part of it. Make sure that their voice and opinions are heard and respected — letting them have a part in the decision-making can give them a sense of control during a time of great losses. Visit homes and communities with them and ask for their thoughts and opinions frequently.
Talking to aging parents about changes is never easy, but approaching them empathetically, while making sure that they’re involved in the whole process (if they’re able) can give them back a sense of control that’s so easily taken away at this stage in life.
It’s a skill to know how to talk to elderly parents about assisted living and other care options. Practice makes perfect. Don’t feel like you have to rush — but try to have the conversation as early as possible. If things aren’t progressing, consider getting the help of a mediator in the form of a geriatric care manager, financial planner, counselor, or lawyer.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.
Serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater San Diego, Family Matter In-Home Care has offices throughout California including: Campbell, CA, Roseville, CA, San Marcos, CA, and San Mateo, CA.