Aging is a natural process, which will eventually cause our loved ones – and ultimately ourselves – to require help in all sorts of everyday activities. Driving, climbing stairs, changing clothes, and eating are just some of the regular daily affairs that we understandably take for granted.
However, becoming an elder doesn’t have to be a distressing process with dire physical and mental consequences for everybody. Instead, it, too, can be a graceful period filled with comfort and security, and all that is needed is to take these few tips and facts into consideration.
People seldom wish to discuss, let alone think about such matters due to their pessimistic nature, but the end of days is an inevitable occurrence no matter the aversion – and should be faced directly as well as thoughtfully.
To put things in perspective, more than three-quarters of adults in the U.S. haven’t had the in-depth talk with their parents about long-term care, living arrangements during retirement, inheritance, testament, and funeral wishes. Apart from the discussion between family generations (or lack of it), nearly a third of people aged 50+ haven’t brought this topic up to their spouse.
If the elephant in the room is left unaddressed, it can have serious consequences to all members of the family. Yes, it is a difficult subject, and yes, nobody expects things to take a turn for the worst, but life can become fragile and coping with such change will require a great amount of care.
Preparing in advance will decrease any unnecessary stress. Still, the conversation shouldn’t start bluntly with a question like – “Hey, mom/dad, are you thinking about moving to a care home?” No, it is better to purposefully plan a family meeting where everyone can get involved and take time to mutually discuss their feelings and financial situation.
Here are some tips how to engage your family in this seemingly reluctant conversation:
Do it in person.
Messages, video chats, or mobile phones just won’t cut it because they tend to deprive the conversation of honest emotions, empathy, and proper feedback.
If can’t gather your thoughts or feel like you may say things either too incoherently or bluntly, prepare in advance and write everything on paper during moments of clarity.
Focus on what your parents’ plans are.
Do they want to continue living in their home or move closer to one of their kids? Would they like to move to a less expensive home, perhaps an independent community of seniors where they can interact with other seniors? Will their needs be met in an assisted living residence or a nursing home?
Also, observe your parents’ health and see how they can cope with living independently. Check out the following signs – their eating habits, hygiene, mobility, forgetfulness, home maintenance, and support system. This will invaluably help you weigh your finances, emotional toll, housing options and determine whether you should be your parents’ caregiver or if they’re in need of professional care.
Give your undivided attention.
Each family varies. Some are energetic, loud, and can heat up this type of conversation, while others are quiet, reserved. The key is to listen, and not just wait for your turn to speak. Sometimes, it’s best just to stop thinking about what you should say next. Instead, listen and ask questions if anything is unclear, but always allow others space to express themselves.
Is everyone in agreement?
The most important thing is that everyone is happy, or at least content with the final decision, not just solely your parents or you alone.
The big talk – or series of them – has to serve everyone!
Remember to support your parents who will likely be uncomfortable through this process, just as they supported you during your upbringing. Embracing the fragility that comes with years and loving each other throughout the ordeal is what strengthens your bond and helps the transition go smoothly. Nobody said it will be easy, but life wouldn’t be life by definition without enduring all its hardships and taking care of your loved ones in the process.