Talking to Your Parents About Aging
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Talking to Your Parents About Aging

           Things evolve as we age, two of which are our health and our finances. And addressing these changes will usually require certain adjustments. Some changes are straightforward, such as adapting to a new medication or learning to use mobility equipment, and some are more involved and convoluted, such as downsizing to a smaller, more senior friendly living space. For those of us who have aging parents that we love and care for, there eventually comes a time when it’s helpful and rewarding to discuss future plans.

            But conversations about the aging process can be intimidating. Many of the emotions involved require sensitivity, and parents may feel as though they are losing independence and autonomy. This necessitates having respectful conversations, where the decisions and future plans are made with them, rather than for them.

            By having open and frank discussions with your parents, you avoid potential stress and uncertainty about the future. These talks can help to plan for future life events and changing circumstances, resolve long simmering family conflicts, and can help to ease some of the pressures that may occur should you be in the position to make decisions about your parent’s care.

            Being proactive is always helpful. By talking to your parents about their wishes when they’re still healthy and able to actively participate in their own care and life planning, you avoid the pressures and intimidation of having to do it suddenly when it becomes a pressing need. Many diseases common to the elderly, such as dementia, can result in the inability to make decisions for oneself. If your senior loved ones don’t express their wishes now, they may not have any choice at all later when the decisions become unavoidable. By hashing it out now, you ensure that your parent can get care in a way that aligns with their wishes and values, as well as keeping you from having the burden of attempting to guess at the best course of action.

            Discussing options well in advance of any crisis is much easier than trying to make a decision when forced to by a medical emergency. Advance planning creates a clear guideline to follow, and the discussions will allow your loved ones to communicate their wishes and values which will aid you in making decisions when necessary.

            And by asking questions now about their preferences, you can avoid having to decide everything all at once. By opening the dialogue now, future conversations will be easier and more fruitful, with space for you and your loved ones to accept any potential changes as well as evaluate all your options. It’s good advice for all of us, in fact, to talk about how we would like to be supported in the event of suddenly declining health status.

            It’s easy to find reasons to postpone emotional conversations, as they necessarily require heavy investment of energy and patience. But making the effort now saves a great deal of stress later. Coming together with your parents to clarify their wishes unburdens you from experiencing any potential agony in the future.