As your parents age, they may experience unexpected situations, such as an abrupt health crisis, that can leave you and your family in a state of disarray.
These unforeseen situations can force you to make critical decisions that demand immediate action, which can place significant emotional and financial burdens on adult children and other family members.
To proactively address the future and potential challenges that may arise, initiating a conversation with aging parents before unexpected situations arise is imperative. This conversation allows parents to share their healthcare, financial, and living arrangement preferences while they can still communicate their wants and desires.
However, navigating these sensitive topics requires a delicate balance of compassion and practicality, as the goal is to guarantee your parents receive the support they deserve during their aging years.
In this blog post, we offer guidance on how to talk to aging parents about their future, what you may want to discuss with them, and eight tips to make this touchy conversation easier for you and your aging parent.
How & What to Talk to Parents About Regarding Their Future
When approaching the conversation about your parent’s future, you need to be empathetic, supportive, and non-judgmental.
Talking about their financial details and important documents can feel too personal for the whole family to know.
However, it’s important to have these deep conversations to ensure that they are ready for whatever the future holds.
Before having these tough conversations with your parents, we recommend having a plan of specific topics you’d like to cover to make the conversation easier.
The following are six primary areas that you should consider discussing with your parents when talking about their future.
Inquire about your elderly parent’s current financial situation, including if they have any savings accounts, investments, or retirement funds.
Understanding their financial preparedness for the future is important for a handful of reasons, including:
- It facilitates proper financial planning to address healthcare needs. For example, it allows you to ensure they have funds available for services such as prescriptions, vision care, or other necessities not fully covered under Canada’s healthcare system.
- It provides insight into whether they can afford to reside in their desired living environment. As parents age, they may be able to get in-home care support, or they may have to move to a living facility. It’s important to know their financial situation so you can help them prepare for the potential costs of moving to senior living communities or alternative future housing options.
- It helps manage any additional unexpected financial challenges. It is important to know if they have a safety net to navigate unforeseen circumstances without compromising their well-being or causing stress.
If you determine your elderly parent isn’t financially prepared for the future, you may want to discuss financial assistance programs. The Government of Canada website has a list of programs and services for seniors, such as dental coverage, the Canadian pension plan, and old age security that can help your aging loved one with their finances.
Everyone has different healthcare preferences should an emergency occur.
It’s imperative to discuss their views on life-sustaining treatments and resuscitation to ensure they receive treatment that aligns with their personal beliefs and desires.
There are two primary topics you may want to discuss about their healthcare preferences:
- If they have a healthcare proxy. The healthcare proxy is often a close relative or friend appointed to make decisions on behalf of the senior if the senior becomes unable to do so for themselves. Knowing who holds this responsibility ensures that medical decisions are made according to your parent’s wishes, especially if they cannot communicate or make decisions independently.
- If they have a personal healthcare directive. This legal document outlines their specific healthcare preferences in case of incapacitation. It will provide information such as their desires for end-of-life care and organ donation. If an advanced healthcare directive does not exist, consider encouraging your parents to create one to ensure their wishes are documented and honoured.
Discuss your parent’s living arrangements and consider their opinion on their current home, any challenges they face, and whether moving into a nursing facility or senior living community is an option.
Additionally, you will want to discuss the financial implications of these choices to ensure a realistic and feasible plan that aligns with their preferences and financial capabilities.
This proactive conversation aims to help them create a living situation that supports their well-being and aligns with their lifestyle choices.
Verify that important legal documents are in place to avoid potential future complications.
Some legal information you may want to consider asking about include:
- If their wills are up-to-date
- If they have their powers of attorney assigned (the person responsible for making financial decisions on their behalf)
- If they have appointed an executor (the person responsible for managing and distributing the estate per their will)
- If they have a healthcare proxy
- If they have a personal healthcare directive
Discussing this legal information ensures that your parent’s wishes are documented and legally recognized. Additionally, it can provide an opportunity to revise legal documents as needed, contributing to a smoother and more organized handling of their affairs in the future.
Their Ability to Manage Daily Tasks
You should discuss your parent’s current ability to manage daily tasks independently and identify areas where they may face challenges or where additional support may be beneficial.
Should they need additional support in areas like having a reminder to take medication, help with meal preparation, help with household chores like laundry or cleaning, consider the possibility of hiring an in-home caregiver. Caregivers can provide assistance with daily tasks, offer companionship, and contribute to a safer living environment.
Proactively assessing and planning for their needs can enhance their overall quality of life and allow them to remain in the comfort of their own home while receiving the support they deserve.
If They’re Feeling Isolated or Lonely
According to Stats Canada, almost one in five Canadian seniors aged 65+ have reported experiencing loneliness.
Ask your elderly parents if they share these feelings. If they do, explore local volunteering opportunities, senior groups, or other community services that can help them increase their social battery and enhance their overall well-being.
For example, the YMCA offers a variety of health and wellness programs for seniors that your aging family member may enjoy.
Additionally, your parent may benefit from companionship, where a caregiver acts as a friend, provides emotional support, and helps with any non-medical needs. This may involve engaging in fun and stimulating activities such as baking, taking walks, playing games, doing puzzles, and more.
Talking with your parent about any feelings of isolation or loneliness will give you insight into their thoughts and help you prepare for any future issues that may arise.
How to Have a Productive Conversation With Aging Loved Ones About Their Future
After understanding some of the topics you may want to discuss with your parents, you may feel overwhelmed or worried about how they respond to you.
Approaching these conversations with sensitivity and a genuine desire to understand your parent’s perspectives will lay the foundation for meaningful and productive discussions about their future.
If you’re unsure how to communicate effectively with your parents, follow these eight simple “rules.”
1. Choose the Right Time & Place
Try to find a quiet, comfortable, and private setting when talking to your parents. Additionally, avoid bringing up sensitive topics during busy or stressful times.
2. Prepare for the Conversation
Do your research!
Before discussing your parent’s wishes, ensure you have researched available resources such as healthcare options, financial support, and in-home care services. Being prepared for the discussion will help you have more productive conversations.
3. Be Sincere & Show Empathy
Recognize that discussing aging and future care can be quite emotional for both you and your parents. Coping with your parents getting older can be challenging to go through.
Due to this, you should always show compassion and understanding for your parent’s feelings and concerns throughout your conversation and hope they can also respect your emotions.
4. Use “I” Statements
When talking about personal topics, individuals can feel pressured and may put their walls up. To ensure you don’t end up losing control of the situation, express your concerns using statements that begin with “I” to avoid sounding accusatory. For example, “I am worried about your safety living alone” instead of “You are not safe living alone.”
5. Ask Open-Ended Questions
Encourage your parents to provide their real thoughts and feelings by asking questions like, “How do you envision your future?” or “What are your preferences for your living arrangements as you age?” Open-ended questions will make them feel more involved in the decision-making process.
6. Listen to Their Perspective
Allow your parents to speak and share their perspectives. It’s important to avoid interrupting or dismissing their concerns, even if you disagree with what they’re saying.
Ultimately, your parents have the right to make decisions about their future. Support their choices as long as they are safe and informed.
7. Don’t Rush
Don’t feel the need to have one long family meeting that covers every topic. Feel free to discuss a few topics and schedule future conversations to go over other topics.
For example, if you know they struggle with financial management, consider having one entire conversation about the topic and then meet with them on another occasion to discuss their future plans for health and well-being.
8. Ensure They Feel Part of The Conversation
Make your parents feel like active participants in the planning of their future.
Similar to using “I” statements, you want to ensure they know that it’s their future and you are there to support them, not to guide or force them to make decisions based on your wants.
Respect their autonomy and involve them in decisions about care and living arrangements.
Give Your Parents The Support They Deserve With Ohana Care
As you navigate the important discussions about your parent’s future, you may notice they need additional support with their daily life.
That’s where Ohana Care comes into play.
Ohana Care is an in-home care provider that can support your parents in a variety of ways, including having stimulating conversations, providing transportation to appointments, assisting with chores, accompanying them to social events, and much more.
If you’re interested in learning more about our in-home care services, please contact us! We’re looking forward to discussing how we can help your parents with their emotional, physical, and mental health.