How to Have Difficult Conversations with Aging Parents

Nearly 14 million older adults are living alone in the U.S. They solely manage their households, including bills, cooking, cleaning and general upkeep. But inevitably, that quality of life is bound to change.

In post-retirement, older adults face challenges that directly influence their ability to take care of themselves. There’s a decline in finances, physical health and in some cases, cognitive function. It’s imperative for loved ones to take measures to ensure their twilight years are as comfortable and fulfilling as possible.

Here are some tips on how to discuss end of life planning:

  • The first step is to listen and learn. Show an interest in your parents’ day-to-day activities. What are their obligations? When are bills due? How are they paid (direct deposit, check, money order, etc.)? How often do they go grocery shopping? Study the ins and outs of their daily routine.
  • Identify areas of concern. Is your parent having a hard time driving due to limited vision or physical strain? Convince them to give up their keys, voluntarily. Losing driving privileges can be a devastating blow, but focus on the positive. Emphasize how they’re protecting themselves and others from potential danger. Help maintain their schedule by escorting them to appointments or introducing a ride-sharing app.
  • A parent’s situation can become critical and require outside help. If they have a hard time preparing meals or maintaining a clean space, a caregiver is a viable option. Make it clear this person is there to support, not dictate. By bringing them into the home, parents will keep some semblance of control and structure.
  • When parents can no longer manage basic functions, assisted living may be necessary. If there are multiple adult children, everyone should be in support of an outside move. Also, try making the parent a part of the process. If possible, allow them to tour multiple facilities, clearly explaining the pros and cons of each.
  • Prior to this stage, it’s recommended children and parents have a conversation about last-minute decisions. It can be an emotional exchange, but it’s crucial for everyone’s peace of mind. Common topics include finalizing a will, life insurance and preferred funeral arrangements. Also, be sure to discuss any outstanding debts, open accounts or other financial responsibilities.

End of life planning is a collaborative experience. Everyone’s voice should be heard.

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Photo credit: kate_sept2004

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