Having that “talk” with Elderly parents is as uncomfortable as when they, many years ago, may have discussed the “birds and the bees” with you. Conversations involving health, finances, end of life and independence issues may be difficult, but need to happen sooner rather than later.
Roger had always enjoyed a close relationship with his mother. As an only child whose father had died when he was young, it had been just the two of them for many years. The mother-son only deepened when his family bought a house only 20 minutes away from his mom (who still lived in the house he grew up in). His mother once again become a constant presence in his life and his family’s, as they spent holidays together, enjoyed weekly dinners and had her babysit for his children when they were young.
Around the time his mother celebrated her 85th birthday, Roger began to notice that she was starting to slow down. His mother had always been very private and he realized he knew nothing about the state of her health or finances. Nor did he know any decisions she had made about future care or end-of-life wishes. Admittedly, he dreaded having that “talk” with his mother. He didn’t know how to initiate it, and he kept putting it off.
Roger’s feelings are certainly not uncommon. Family conversations on such topics often create an uncomfortable atmosphere. Yet, according to experts, discussions need to occur as soon as possible.
Roger finally got up the courage to have that talk with his mother. Consequently, he learned important information about her financial and medical health — some of which surprised him — and her desire to remain independent as long as possible. Once he broached the subject, he found that pursuant conversations were not difficult to initiate. This has worked out well for both of them.
Experts believe these talks need to take place when things are going well — before there is a crisis and decisions need to be made hastily.
For starters, it is important for children to know the location of such important documents as insurance policies, wills, health care proxies, living wills, trust documents, tax returns and investment and banking records.
Somewhat surprisingly, 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 they way they wish.
In your communications on these delicate topics, always remember these positive communication approaches:
- Be direct, but non-confrontational.
- Watch for opportunities to discuss the topic.
- Share your feelings.
- Approach the subject indirectly.
Here are some tips for approaching the subject with a Senior or Elderly person:
- Leave your loved one with a written list of questions or concerns he or she can think about after a discussion or initial conversation.
- Expect your loved one to show some initial resistance. You may feel resistance. If so, try again at a later date. If it continues, however, eventually you will have to act firmly.
- Show understanding and patience in every conversation. You are dealing with some of the most delicate and private issues we face in life.
- In every conversation, focus on and emphasize what is in your loved one’s best interest. Communicate why you want him or her to share information, make decisions and involve you in discussions about their desires.
- Always communicate that you want to help your loved one get affairs in order to reflect their wishes and desires in the areas of finance, end-of-life and types of contingency plans for health issues and care.