This is a guest blog post from Shelley Goering, community relations consultant for The Kenwood by Senior Star.
Often, our older loved ones are reluctant to discuss age-related issues and plans for senior care. These are often difficult conversations for both parents and their children.
The aging parent, like the rest of us, doesn’t see themselves as “old” and – most of all – doesn’t want to face losing independence or the realities of aging. Adult children can also find this a difficult subject matter. They often also picture their parents as “younger” and can miss red flags that may signify a need to discuss long-term plans. Most often we wait way too long to start these conversations and then once we do, we are in crisis mode – a time where it is difficult to make clear and good decisions.
To avoid teetering into crisis mode, the holidays provide a unique and important launching point for serious conversations with aging parents about long-term care. Many families live in different cities and as they gather around the living room at grandma’s house to celebrate the festive times, they may notice changes with a senior parent that will signal it’s time to talk about their wants for the future.
A few tips (and questions to ask yourself) to help recognize red flags from AARP include:
- Assess the home environment: Some daily activities for you to observe while visiting for the holidays include:
- Are they accessing their home safely?
- Can they manage the stairs on their own?
- Can they walk to the mailbox without assistance?
- Are they having trouble maintaining their home?
- Is there bathroom still accessible for them?
- Are they eating healthy?
- Are they having difficulty preparing their own meals?
- Assess their ability to drive: Take a trip to the grocery store, and ask them to drive. This will allow you a discreet opportunity to observe their driving skills while being mindful of their dignity. Do they drive too slow or too fast? Do they have difficulty finding their destination? Are they able to get to the desired location without assistance? Keep these in mind as you ride along.
- Assess their health: While it’s easy for parents to insist they are feeling okay, take this time to dig a little deeper without pressing them further. Monitor whether they are taking any prescribed medication at the right frequency or offer to tag along for a routine doctor’s visit that they may have already scheduled.
- Assess their finances: This is an especially uncomfortable topic, but is still important. Check to see if mail is piling up to ensure their bills are being paid on time. Also, consider asking where there financial information is kept so you can access in case of an emergency. Better to have these conversations in advance of a crisis situation.
In addition, a few tips for launching a tough conversation with your aging parent include:
- Be open and transparent: Speak from your heart and explain your concerns clearly.
- Follow the Golden Rule: Imagine yourself in your parent’s situation and treat them as you would like to treated – with respect and concern.
- Be supportive: Allow your parent to be in control of the situation. Listen to their thoughts and ideas.
- Be sincere: It’s best to be upfront with your capability and desire to help.
- End the conversation with a positive next step: Determine this based on your parent’s desires and wishes.
And finally, enjoy your holidays and take advantage of all they have to offer; time with family, friends, food and conversation.