How to communicate with an ageing parent about the future

As mothers, we always want to do the best we can by our children, so we often put their needs above our own to ensure that they grow up to be happy, healthy and well-rounded individuals. From the very beginning, we feed and change them, support their first steps, cuddle them endlessly, shed a tear on their first day of school and look on as they leave home. In a blink of an eye, they’re all grown up and ready to have their own little ones.

By playing an active part in this cycle, it makes you really appreciate just how much our own parents did for us. They also went through all of those parenting milestones to do the best by us — so of course, we want to help our ageing parents them as they grow older, in any way we can.

Whether an ageing parent has health problems – as my own mum does – requires everyday assistance or needs a little companionship, it can be difficult to know how to approach the conversation with your ageing parent about their care and support options in the future. It’s something we have deliberated over for hours in our household.

Because this can be a tricky topic of conversation to have with an ageing parent, below are a few key steps to keep in mind when you’re thinking about approaching this important discussion:

1. Set the Scene For Your Ageing Parent

Decisions about your parent’s future don’t have to be made in the very first conversation. Instead, plant a gentle seed to give them the opportunity to think about it more in their own time. For example, they may not be at the stage where exact care options need to be arranged, but it’s useful to know whether they’d like to stay at home for as long as they can or if they would prefer to move into a retirement village or care home one day.

When you feel it’s the right time to follow up on this conversation — perhaps they’re calling you more often for help or you’re feeling guilty for not being able to visit as much — try to approach it within a calm setting where everyone is relaxed and there’s plenty of time ahead.

What you shouldn’t do is treat this chat like an intervention with your ageing parent. Instead, enjoy lunch or a peaceful walk together and navigate towards the conversation naturally. Be patient and make sure there are no distractions so you can warmly connect with them. This way, they are more likely to actively engage in the conversation with their own views and opinions.

2. Talk Finance With Your Ageing Parent

It’s possible that your mum or dad may be avoiding talks about their future for a number of reasons, such as fear of losing control or because they don’t want to worry or burden you. There’s also a lot of information to digest, which can be difficult to do if you’re learning about it alone.

Another reason could be related to finances — how much does care cost, exactly? You may already have an idea of their financial status, but by respectfully asking and knowing more about their property value, savings and retirement fund, you’ll be in a better position to research possible care options that are within budget.

3.  Discuss Their Options

Now that your toe is in the water and finances have been discussed, now is the perfect moment to step in and offer practical solutions. First, reassure your ageing parent that no matter what, everything will be okay and that you’re happy to help them decide on the best course of action. Then, it’s time to lay out some of their care options so that you’re both on the same page and further action can begin.

Stay at Home

If your parent wants to stay in their own house for as long as possible, this isn’t an uncommon option. In fact, there are plenty of daily living aids available to help them with everyday tasks, which gives them the option to maintain their independence in their own space.

Move in with You

On the other hand, living alone may not be the best-suited option, especially if they have any health concerns, are prone to falling or are struggling with their memory. Another option is for your ageing parent to move in with you — if you have a good relationship and enough space. You’d be able to keep an eye on them and if you want a break or need to go away for whatever reason, you can use short-term respite care for the elderly services, allowing you to relax and recharge your batteries.  

Find Alternative Care

Lastly, if you feel that your ageing parent would benefit from round-the-clock care, there are a wide range of residential options, such as care homes, nursing homes and even homes that are specially designed to help those with dementia feel comfortable and safe.

Be aware that your parent’s care needs may change over time, as well as their opinions on what will make them happy, but as long as there is an open line of communication, you can prepare for the future. It may not be an easy conversation to have, but it’s one that will bring huge value to the whole family.

Do you have an ageing parent and find it difficult to talk them about what the future holds and the necessary arrangements? Do leave a comment and share.


Cover picture credit: Shutterstock

*This is a collaborative post

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