We plan for just about everything in our lives: education and career, major purchases, even travel and vacations. So why shouldn’t we treat senior living conversations with similar importance?
Here at St. Anthony’s, we understand. Talking to your aging parents about their future can be uncomfortable at best, and emotional and difficult for your entire family at worst. For this reason, it’s especially important to start these conversations early! If you wait until after a parent is no longer safe to live independently, suddenly the timeline is rushed and it’s harder to calmly think through decisions for their future.
We know it’s not easy to watch a parent age and feel responsible for their future, so here are some tips to help you have productive and loving conversations with your aging parents.
Tips for Hard Conversations with Aging Parents
Be Sensitive and Respectful
Whenever you discuss your parents’ future, ensure you’re honoring their legacy and autonomy. Do a lot more listening and asking questions than advising or directing. Be sensitive to their wants while advocating for their future needs, and ensure they feel respected.
Listen More Than You Talk
Remember this is about their future happiness and comfort, not yours! While you should consider your own needs, the goal is to help your parents create a plan for their future that will bring them stability, security, and happiness while receiving the care they need. Focus on asking questions and listening well, not arguing your own perspective.
Get Professional Advice
Talk to experts about different areas of your parents’ future where helpful. Involve their doctor in conversations about expected medical care needs, a lawyer in legal matters, and a funeral director in end-of-life care planning. When looking into senior living, ask the staff at senior living communities you’re considering for their advice and guidance, especially once your parents decide where they want to live!
What to Talk About with Your Aging Parents
When it’s time to start conversations about your parents’ futures, there are a lot of logistical pieces to cover, from their future care to financial planning to all the legal items that need to be covered in the process. While you don’t need to try and hash all of this out in one sitting, here are some agenda items to cover over the course of many discussions:
Before you can plan out your parents’ financial and legal elements, you need to figure out what they want to do for possible future care. If a parent has had several falls or hospitalizations recently or has received a dementia diagnosis, you’ll likely be discussing a plan for assisted living or in-home care.
If your parents are still healthy and mentally sound, the most likely first step is downsizing and considering the benefits of a senior living community. Ask about their desires for the future, including what they would want in situations where they aren’t able to fully communicate their desires anymore.
Every family is different about finances, and some families are more private than others. You don’t necessarily have to be their financial advisor, but you should help them get connected with one, especially if they would prefer not to have you involved with their financial planning.
Talk to a lawyer about what legal documents and arrangements your parents will need to prepare for their future. Some documents you may want to work on preparing include:
- Power of Attorney
- Medical Directive
- Revocable Trust
- A Will
End of Life Care
This might be the hardest part to talk about, but it’s also very important! Take the time to discuss with your parents plans for end-of-life care. Learn about their desires regarding hospice or palliative care, memorial services or funerals, burial or cremation, and what one parent would like to do in the event of the death of the other. While these conversations can be heartbreaking, they can also be very meaningful. Having all of these arrangements made in advance will allow them to have peace of mind knowing you will be able to grieve and say goodbye without worrying about all the logistics of end-of-life.
Questions to Ask Your Aging Parents
When preparing for these hard conversations, it helps to think about what questions you should ask to guide the discussion productively. Here are some questions you might want to ask your aging parents:
- What is your health insurance situation?
- Do you have a durable power of attorney? If not, who would you feel comfortable appointing?
- What is your ideal care situation if needed? Do you have a long-term care plan?
- Do you have a will or living trust prepared?
- Are your existing documents up to date?
- Have you talked to your doctor about your future health expectations?
- Do you have a lawyer or financial advisor?
- Where and how are all your important documents stored, like banking and investment files, passwords, medical records, insurance materials, and other paperwork?
- Would you still choose to stay in the house if you lived alone?
- Can I help you look into senior living options?
- Would you want to be kept stable with ventilators, feeding tubes, or other medical interventions?
- How do you feel about a joint checking account with me or someone else you trust to manage your finances if needed?
We’d Be Honored to Welcome Your Parents Home!
At St. Anthony’s, our residents are our family. We would love to meet your parents and show them what life is like in our close-knit senior living community, even if they’re not interested in independent living and don’t require assisted living care yet! Getting familiar with their potential future home can help your parents feel more secure about their future if they ever need extra support.
Contact us to schedule a tour, where we can answer any questions you or your parents have and help you start these conversations off on the right foot!