How to talk to aging parents about the future is a surprisingly difficult proposition.
As we get older, we become more aware of the aging process. We have a greater understanding of the fact that the clock is ticking and that nothing will ever be the same again. While this is true, it does not mean that our parents' minds are stuck in the stone age. That said, the reality is that the conversations they need to have with you is more complex than it used to be.
In order to answer the question, "How to talk to aging parents about their future," you need to first take a step back and examine what you think they might be thinking. For many, talking about the subject with their children might be the most painful and difficult conversations they have ever had. They are going through a major change in their lives and the future often doesn't look so bright. There are going to be a lot of issues involved.
As parents begin the process of planning their futures, you are going to want to discuss the possibility of long-term care. They are going to have a lot of questions and feelings about the issue. You cannot ignore their concerns. They are real and often imminent. Address them head on.
This is an area where it can seem like your parents and you are in an adversarial relationship. However, as you begin working with these new and complicated issues, you will find that many of the things that they are worried about are actually their own concerns. Treat their concerns with respect.
If your parents are already in some kind of assisted living situation and are concerned about the quality of the care they are receiving currently, let them document that. Help them keep a daily record of things that concern them. It may even be helpful for your parents to have a notepad and pen so they can jot down information as they need it. Consider getting them a cell phone capable of taking pictures and ask them to photograph issues that bother them. This alleviates always having to be writing. That can become a burden.
How to talk to aging parents about the prospect of disease is something that you must address when they become concerned. They may worry about a stroke or heart attack, both of which can be very dangerous. Write down facts about these diseases, so they are informed of what to look for and when to take action.
Talk to your parents about the things they are noticing as they age. They may notice a difference in the way they take a pill, speak, or perform an activity.
Documenting your aging parents' changes and growth is important. It can help them remain comfortable as they get older. By learning how to talk to aging parents about the possibility of disease, you will help them adjust to the possibility. They may even discover a bit of a relief when they realize that you are concerned about their health and wellbeing.
It is a good idea to have a "plan" in place from the beginning as you discuss what the future might hold. This plan should include the initial visit with the doctor, keeping a journal of your own observations during the visits and maintaining a list of medications, vitamins, and other nutritional supplements. In addition, learn about new health discoveries that could affect your parents.
If your parents are concerned about certain diseases, such as Alzheimer's, then research such diseases to see what treatments are available. Remember that there is no cure for Alzheimer's, but you can reassure them that if Alzheimer's strikes, you will always be there for them. Tell your parents about the research that has been done as well as about the treatments and medications being used. If you want to know how to talk to aging parents about the possible onset of a disease, be prepared to answer a lot of questions.
Steve Schafer is the founder of TheEulogyWriters and is probably the most prolific eulogy writer (and, no doubt, the best) anywhere. He lives in Michigan and has been writing eulogies for well over thirty years. The articles in this blog are designed to help people through the process of losing loved ones.