“Can We Talk?”
Your parents cared for you when you were young, championed you as you grew up, left home, and started a life of your own, and now it’s dawning on you that now they may need support from you. This is a difficult realization that can leave you feeling worried, sad, and perhaps scared. Chances are, it’s as difficult – and scary – for them as it is for you. Knowing how to open the conversation about their care and keep it going can be a challenge, but if you prepare, keep the lines of communication open, and always act from a place of love and compassion, you will be fine.
The fact is, it’s best to have these conversations now, while your parents are still in a good place and any possible danger signs are still on the horizon. You’ll be glad you were proactive. Even though they may resist at first, they will be glad too.
How to Start the Conversation with Your Aging Parents
Planning ahead is always preferable to winging it when it comes to really important conversations, and being prepared will make you feel much less nervous—a definite plus. Use the tips below to look at how you can go into these conversations from a place of strength and confidence.
Admit how you’re feeling about the whole conversation. There is nothing like vulnerability to create trust and elicit compassion. A fib about a friend’s experience caring for his/her parents that struck a chord with you can be a good catalyst. “It’s not you, it’s me.”
Ask your parents if they already have made arrangements about their next steps and mid-and long-range future plans. They may be on the same page as you or even ahead of the game.
Bring all your empathy to bear. This is about them. If you think you’re worried or scared you can bet whether they admit it openly or not they are even more so. Remember, you may well be in their shoes down the road. How would you want this conversation to go in their place?
Focus on the most important factors (you can even take a list with you, so you don’t forget):
• Social connections
• Peace of mind
• Be mindful that you are part of a dialogue, not presenting a monologue.
• Remind yourself and your parents that there is no ‘standard’ choice because everyone’s needs and preferences are unique to them. The task is to identify the options best suited to the individual.
• Respect the fact that no matter how much your role in their lives is changing, they are still your parents.
• Don’t exclude key family members from this conversation. At the same time you don’t want them to feel ganged up on, but if you have siblings, it will be good if you are all on board and mutually supportive.
• Be honest about the fact that this conversation is about their well-being but also your own peace of mind. You and they are both stakeholders here.
• Don’t be afraid to pull back if things don’t go as you’d hoped. You can shelve certain topics you hoped to touch on if emotions are running high or you get sidetracked by something that crosses a boundary for them or concerns you. If you’ve started this conversation before things are urgent, there should be time to let the process unfold at a pace that is comfortable for everyone.
Even if the first conversation goes just as you hoped it would, it’s important to keep in mind that you don’t have to solve everything in one conversation. Trying to cover all the bases the first time around may feel overwhelming to you and your parents. Start the conversation and make plans to continue it. Once you get a feel for how they respond and engage with you about this, you’ll have a better sense of the next steps. As you research the various options in preparation for your conversations, consider consulting with Oasis Senior Advisors. Your parents may be more open to speaking with an expert outside the family. Knowledge is power—and it is also comforting. The more you and your parents understand about both the opportunities and risks that they may encounter, the better you’ll feel about advising and supporting them. Then knowledge and expertise of your Oasis Advisor is provided at no cost to the family. Feel free to reach out either by online form or phone—475.619.4123 or 914.356.1901.