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More Questions to Keep the Dialogue Flowing with Aging Parents

March 18, 2013

In my last post I presented you with some potential questions you could discuss with your parents, regardless of their age, to get the family talking. That’s the key: families who talk with each other and discuss difficult subjects have stronger bonds, more respect, less anxiety about the future, and greater displays of love for each other.

In a nutshell what more could you ask of your family? Isn’t that what it’s all about? LOVE! RESPECT! CARING! SHARING!

Those four words embody such strong emotions for us and seem to be what we are all searching for. When we don’t have those elements in our lives there is panic, chaos, antagonism, and disconnection. Let’s stay focused on the path to love, respect, caring, and sharing by engaging with our parents, and each other, in open dialogues.

Remember, these questions are just starting points. You’re getting this in a blog post so you need to expand on the ideas I’m laying out for you and customize the questions to your own family situation. If you read the soon-to-be published book I’ll be putting out sometime later this year you will find that I get much more in-depth on these topics.

There’s no need to wait for the book; grab a cup of coffee, tea, or your favorite beverage and sit down with one, or both, of your parents and talk to them. Use the questions as a lead-in to greater discussion. It would work best if you didn’t rattle off the questions as if you were performing an interviewing. Most people who have started discussions with their aging parents have told me that they take the topic of the questions and just start talking. Answers from your parents will probably come easier if they don’t feel like they are being interrogated.

Let’s start with some questions about how your parents perceive their health:

  • What kind of health issues do your parents have? It is important for them to know their health status and how it is being treated by their doctors. They may not have talked with you about health issues because they think it might alarm you, or they don’t want to be lectured to. Remember, health status is a personal choice. If your dad has liver problems but continues to drink  he may be exacerbating his health issues, but it is his right to do so. You are not the health police. You are just looking for open discussion about the health status of your parents.
  • If your parents have health issues do they understand how those conditions may impact their lives as they age? For example: uncontrolled diabetes can lead to painful neuropathy in the legs and feet. This may impact their ability to walk. COPD may prevent the individual from being able to lay down in bed. Heart disease may preclude trips into the mountains due to lack of oxygen at higher elevations.

Don’t preach at your parents about their health conditions and definitely don’t tell them what they can and can’t do if they have certain disease processes. The examples I gave were just that-examples. It is best left to their doctor to explain the consequences and disease progression. Your job is to simply see how much they understand their disease process.

  • How many doctors do your parents see? If your parents are relatively healthy they probably see a primary care physician or maybe a Nurse Practitioner (NP) or Physician Assistant (PA). If however, they have certain disease processes they may be seeing one or more specialists overseeing their treatment.
  • If your parents are seeing more than one doctor can they tell you which doctor is treating them for what disease? Getting to know your parents health care providers, and making sure they understand which provider is treating which disease, takes the guesswork out of who to contact if there is a change in condition. If your parents are willing it’s good for someone to accompany them to each appointment especially as they get into their later years (70s, 80s, 90s). This allows for confirmation of information provided by the doctor and it also eases some anxiety for your parent who may not hear or see so well or who may just be plain nervous about meeting with the doctor.
  • Are your parents happy with the medical providers they see? We all have different personalities and sometimes we just don’t click with someone. If this is the case with a health care provider the patient may not return for follow-up care. If you are aware that your parent doesn’t like a certain doctor you can assist them in finding another provider or act as a buffer for them with the disliked provider. Being involved in your parents health care shows that you are concerned and on their side.
  • What type of steps are your parents willing to take in order to improve their health, maintain stable health, and as a means of prevention for further health issues? This questions, or one similar, opens a big door for you and your siblings, children, and spouses to step through in order to assist your parents in living a healthy lifestyle. Maybe they are willing to take an evening stroll with you in the park three or four evenings a week during nice weather. Or maybe they;d like to take a horsemanship class and ask you to join them. How about dinner out a couple of times a month so you can explore healthy eateries.

Can you see that by asking these questions of your parents you are not only assisting them with their health, but you are also enhancing your relationship with them by showing loving concern for their health and respect for their choices. An added benefit is that you may also improve your own health by being more active with your parents.

More questions and suggestions next time.

Are these questions helping you? Do you have any stories you’d like to share about the type of dialogues that have developed with your parents? I’d love to read your responses in the comments section!

Thank you for reading my blog!

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