Talking with parents about issues involving their health, long term care, finances, health care proxies, or their thoughts about their final wishes, can be as difficult as “the talk” you had years ago about the birds and the bees. Yet, these conversations need to occur; and often times, the conversation should occur sooner, rather than later.
In fact, these talks should take place when things are going well, before there is a crisis.
As with most events, planning ahead is best, and often makes everyone involved feel better. It also gives aging parents the opportunity to express their wishes for the future.
• Start with an icebreaker. For example, “I just read an article about how important it is to have all of your important documents, such as a living will, insurance policies, and legal documents in one place. Mom, can you show me where all of your documents are located and what you would like for us to do in case of an emergency?
• Approach the subject indirectly. For example, “Mom, I know you’re taking lots of pills. How do you keep track of them? Would a pill organizer from the drug store help you?”
• Be direct, but non-confrontational. “Dad, I’m worried that you seem to be unsteady on your feet. I’m wondering how we can help protect you from falls.”
• Listen for openings. “Mom, you mentioned having problems with your eyesight. Have you seen the eye doctor lately? Does it seem to affect your driving?”
• Share your feelings. “Dad, you’ve always been so independent, and I imagine it’s hard to ask for help. But remember, you can always ask us for help if you need to, or we can find someone who can help you.”
Once the initial talk has begun, it will become easier for parents and children to hold future discussions and lower stress levels. Expect that future conversations will need to happen; this is not a one-time discussion. Initiating the talk is often the most difficult part. Be open – express your love and concern, and most importantly, listen.
For additional tips on having “the talk” with your parents visit www.legacyhomecare.org or call 678-713-1412.
Kasi Tiller is the CEO of Legacy Home Care Services, Inc. Legacy Home Care Services provides non-medical personal care and companion services to seniors, those recovering from surgery, new and expectant mothers, children and others. Kasi has a Bachelors of Science Degree in Communications and a Masters Degree in Public and Community Health from Austin Peay State University. Kasi has worked in the health care industry for more than 25 years.