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Have ‘the talk’ with Mom or Dad

Mary Krueger - Douglas County Senior Coordinator

During the holidays, families get together with loved ones after not seeing them for a while. They may notice changes that raise red flags, indicating it might be time to have “the talk” with Mom or Dad about the future.

Older loved ones resist these talks because they think it is too early. They don’t want to consider themselves “old” yet.

Few older adults want to face the loss of independence associated with age, let alone discuss obituaries or funeral arrangements. Or it may be the adult children who avoid these discussions because they still picture their parents in the prime of their life. 

Here are some tips for families to have these conversations sooner rather than later:

• Be open when you speak with your parents. Explain your concerns; don’t dance around the issues. Share your feelings. Remind your parents you love them and want to carry out their wishes.

• Try not to let your parents feel threatened. Reassure them you will be by their side and you have their best interest at heart.

• Make it clear they are in control. You want to clarify their wishes and not force them to do anything they don’t want to do.

• If there is a question whether or not they should continue driving, offer practical solutions, don’t just take their keys away.

• If they need help with shopping, errands or household chores, find resources that can help. 

There are also a lot of technologies available to help your parents if they live at home. Cell phones are a big help. There are lots of choices when it comes to personal emergency response systems. There are also in-home monitors that can tell you if Mom fell or has a problem taking her medications or if she hasn’t opened the refrigerator yet today. 

• Is Dad able to stay at home by himself? Look at senior housing communities. Visit them. Get an idea of what he likes and doesn’t like. Let him choose.

Can he stay in his own home with help? Does he need help with homemaking, meal preparation, lawn services or snow removal? Get a list of resources. 

• Understand that your parent’s social network and faith community play into these conversations. Feelings of isolation and depression need to be addressed. Senior companions, senior centers, churches and community organizations provide options.

• If you are unaware of your parent’s financial and legal matters, a conversation is advisable. Some parents are not willing to share this information. 

If possible, you will want to know if they have a power of attorney, advance directive, a will, any trusts and location of important documents.

Is there someone set up to pay their bills if they cannot? Do they have long-term care insurance? Have they made funeral arrangements and are they paid for? 

This process can take months to resolve. Setting a time frame for these discussions is a good way to keep the lines of communication open. This will make it less stressful for both you and your parents.