Ask These Questions of Yourself to Open Dialogue With Your Aging Parents
One of the keys to family harmony as your parents age is to keep a loving, respectful, and open dialogue going every chance you get. This blog, and the soon to be published book by the same name, are intended to assist you in finding your way through that process. Some families easily maintain the process of dialogue, engage in humorous banter, and have serious discussions as children move into adulthood and parents age. Other families struggle to remain close or experience hurt feelings, disappointment, and even anger toward each other.
Regardless of your past family relationship there is a reality most adult children must face. Unless your parents are already deceased they are aging. What does that mean for you? Will you take on the role of personal caregiver? Do you need to take over major decision-making for your parents? Is someone in the family going to try to exploit your parents for personal gain? How involved will you be in their care and decisions as they age?
These are tough questions, but in order to have some semblance of a plan, rather than dealing with chaos in the throes of an emergency, these issues must be addressed. Looking at the picture, and talking about it with your parents even when they are as young as in their 50s and you are in your 20s or 30s, allows for advance planning, smooth transitions, and a sense of security that everyone is on the same page.
Questions to get you thinking (and talking):
- The economy has been bad and may have impacted your parents financially. They may need your financial help, even if living frugally, as they age. Are you in a position to help?
- Life spans are increasing so aging seniors are living longer. What kind of quality of life can your parents expect as they age?
- Due to advances in diagnosing illness with new technologies and treating diseases with new medications your parents may live longer with more serious health conditions than previous generations. Will this have an impact on you?
The health care system is frequently changing. With budget cuts and changing insurance coverage there is no guarantee that services previously available, and paid for, will be covered when your parents need them. Are you and your parents keeping up with the trends and changes in health care coverage?
The above points were made to get you thinking about positive solutions and beneficial outcomes. They were not meant to add stress or cause you to go into panic mode. Actually, discussions with your parents about these issues can alleviate stress and panic because you can build solid plans together with the knowledge that you are not alone in the decision-making process.
Of course making plans and coming up with solutions that work for your individual family takes time as well as an open attitude and cooperative effort, but the result is worth it. Enjoying an easy relationship with your parents should make asking questions an easy process. You aren’t expected to delve into every detail of their financial situation, but you’d be surprised how many aging parents welcome a frank discussion outlining their plans with their adult children and building strategies together.
On the other hand, if your family is not close or there are issues of unresolved guilt, anger, or hostility the process probably can’t even get started until there is a return to respect and cooperation. A good place to start is to re-establish communication on simple subjects and then move into posing questions about the future. It may be necessary to spend months, or even years, rebuilding a relationship of trust and stability before engaging in discussions about plans for aging or end-of-life care options.
Some family relationships may be so dysfunctional or strained that an outside party may be needed to initially ease the tension. There are numerous people who can assist in this process such as clergy, family counselors, and geriatric case managers. It is best to consult with someone who has experience and training in conflict resolution rather than depending on a friend or extended family member. Using a professionally trained individual eases any fears of someone trying to manipulate or steer an outcome for personal gain.
Take a look at your family dynamics and see where your family falls on the communication spectrum. Then start thinking about the areas you’d like to address. In my next post I’ll get more specific with some questions for you to consider as discussion topics.
Do you have a specific question for your aging parents? Have you had experience in discussing aging and end-of-life issues with your parents? Please share your experience.
Thank you for reading my blog and sharing your insights with me and my readers!