Shaping Conversations with Aging Parents
If you’ve been thinking of talking with your aging parents about the future, you may feel hesitant. Perhaps you fear your parents will resist discussing any changes to their lifestyle, or maybe you simply aren’t sure how to broach the topic.
Of course, it’s best to discuss the future with your parents while they’re still active and independent. The alternative may be waiting until a crisis forces the issue and leaves you with no choice except to make important decisions hastily.
By understanding the factors that shape your parents’ attitudes and behaviors as they age, you can begin a conversation that leads to the ideal living situation at each stage of life.
A Complex Picture of Aging
As a working-age adult who likely juggles multiple responsibilities at home and work, you may sometimes have trouble relating to the ways in which your parents think and act. Perhaps you feel they reflect too much on the past or that they make decisions too slowly.
Psychologists tell us that such differences in viewing the world are normal. Throughout life, people pass through developmental stages, and development doesn’t end when hair begins graying. For seniors, it’s important to accomplish tasks — whether physical or emotional — that continue to give life meaning.
Consider, for example, that your parents may have lived in their home for decades, so it’s understandable that they might not welcome a discussion of possible change. Their house is full of happy memories, and change can be difficult. By attempting to view the situation from your parents’ perspective, you gain empathy that can help you establish common ground in discussions of the future.
Beginning the Conversation
AARP offers several suggestions for beginning a conversation with your parents about their continued ability to live independently and their plans for assistance as they age. Consider these methods for getting a dialogue started in a manner that makes it clear that you have your parents’ best interests at heart:
- Share your feelings. Your parents may not realize that you worry about them in their current living situation. If you’re concerned about steep stairs that could cause a fall, a large yard that requires constant maintenance or other issues, tell your parents how you feel.
- Bring up other friends or loved ones who recently faced a similar situation and the solution they found. Perhaps your friend assisted her parent in moving to a senior living community, for example.
- Respect your parents’ position. Understanding your parents’ concerns and thoughts about the future can help with finding the best solution for the specific situation.
- State your concerns clearly, but avoid criticism. Try to take a tone that’s helpful rather than impatient or demanding.
Keeping Communication Channels Open
To help ensure that your parents remain healthy and happy as they age, honest communication is critical. Unless your parents are in an unsafe situation, they should make the decisions about where and how they’ll live. But by understanding your parents’ perspective, you can support them as they discover their optimal aging lifestyle.
About Presbyterian Senior Living
Presbyterian Senior Living is a not-for-profit organization, fulfilling its charitable purpose and mission by providing high quality retirement choices, healthcare services and affordable residential living options for people 55 and older for more than 85 years. Headquartered in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, Presbyterian Senior Living provides services to approximately 6,000 seniors in 30 locations in the mid-Atlantic region of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and Delaware.
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