Tips for Talking with Aging Parents about their Future

Monday, January 27, 2014 - 12:00am

(StatePoint) Sometimes the most important family conversations can be the most uncomfortable to initiate, especially those concerning the health and well-being of an aging loved one. But such discussions shouldn’t wait, say experts.

“Ignoring the inevitable will only leave you unprepared for the future,” says Virginia Morris, eldercare expert and author of the new book, “How to Care for Aging Parents.” “Remember, talking about the worst-case scenarios won’t make them come true, and refusing to talk about them won’t make them go away.”

In Morris’ new book, she offers a one-stop resource to those caring for an older-loved one, with advice on medical, financial, housing and emotional issues. Here are some of her tips for broaching these crucial subjects:

Listen

However you launch the conversation, start by listening, even when you have specific issues you want to discuss or firm convictions about what should be done. Don’t interrupt. Acknowledge that you’ve heard what he or she has said.

Your parent likely has previously unvoiced fears and hopes that you haven’t even considered. If you listen first, you will probably learn something, and your parent will be more likely to listen to your views.

Things to Avoid

There are several common conversational mistakes to avoid that could leave your parent feeling defensive -- from nagging and lecturing to making promises you may not be able to keep.

“There are few more effective ways of blocking any further conversation than by making decisions and presenting them as a master plan to a parent,” says Morris.

Additionally, don’t arrive armed with paperwork. Pages of legal documents and brochures about retirement homes will likely overwhelm your parent.

Get Specific

Talk -- really talk -- to your parents about their medical states and wishes concerning aggressive medical care. Get them to sign a living will and health care proxy, but realize that these documents are just a starting point.

Don’t accept vague comments like “don’t drag it out.” Push the conversation further. It may not be pleasant to discuss end-of-life scenarios, but knowing your parent’s wishes could help save your family from future untold agony and grief.

More information and resources can be found at www.CareForAgingParents.com.

Concerned about an aging loved one? Opening up the lines of communication is the first step toward preparing for his or her future. So don’t sweep difficult conversations under the rug.

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