If you’re an adult child caring for an aging parent, having a healthy outlook on aging and approaching conversations about aging with sensitivity can help smooth out the ups and downs of getting older for both parents and children. Below are some tips and resources for beginning conversations about the aging process together.
In 2035, the U.S. Census Bureau projects:
Start the conversation. Approaching topics of declining health such as vision or health issues can be difficult, but you can begin a dialog by expressing your genuine concerns. Seek the input and support of siblings for their unique perspectives.
Talk about health needs and health history. Being aware of existing health needs and knowing your parents’ health history upfront can avoid confusion later on. Have your parents had annual physicals? What types of health insurance and care options are available to them? A thorough medical evaluation is a good place to start, and being prepared can relieve stress on your entire family.
Discuss financial issues. When the current living situation is no longer safe or viable, what resources are available to pay for senior housing or in-home care? Keep in-mind that money is often a sensitive subject, so working with a professional financial planner or attorney may be helpful in coming up with a plan that fits your family’s needs.
Determine driving skills. There may come a point when your parents need to limit their driving or even stop altogether. Observing their driving skills first-hand as a co-pilot may be a good first step in determining your parents’ driving abilities. Maybe they should be driving fewer miles, not driving at night or in bad weather, or just steering clear of high-traffic times. This can be a difficult change, as driving is often seen as an expression of independence. Your family physician can help connect you to independent driving evaluations to help you navigate this change.
Talk about end-of-life issues. While it’s uncomfortable, it’s probably the most important conversation you’re not having. Find out if your parents have end-of-life wishes, instructions, or even a designated health care proxy. These topics are best discussed when your aging parent is clear-headed and able to share their wishes. AARP and The Conversation Project—an effort devoted to helping people talk about end-of-life care—have robust resources to help you begin this important conversation with your loved ones.
Most people are reluctant to give up their independence. Being sensitive to how these changes affect them shows that you understand their concerns and care for their feelings as well as their physical wellbeing.
This content is an adaptation of an original article by Rudri Patel featured at the Care.com Community.
Page updated: February 2018
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