Ten Tips to Remember When Talking To Aging Parents

1) Start discussions early.
Take advantage of opportunities to discuss the subject, such as a newspaper article or a relative’s illness.

2) Include other family members.
You do not have to do this alone; draw strength from your family members.

3) Explain the purpose of the conversation.
Let your parents know you are concerned about them and want to help them.

4) Understand your parents need to control their lives.
Even though they are late in life, your parents will still want a measure of control in making end-of-life decisions. Your main role will be balancing your parents’ independence with their own safety.

5) Agree to disagree.
Disagreements will rise from time to time. When this happens, remember that your parents’ wishes should prevail unless their safety is jeopardized.

6) Use good communication skills.
Talking effectively with your parents begins with good communication, both in speech and body language. Listen to your parents, use open-ended questions and foster healthy discussion.

7) Ask about records and documentation.
Know where your parents’ important documents are kept, including insurance policies, wills, health care proxies, living wills, trust documents, tax returns and banking and investment records. Also ask about whom you should contact in an emergency regarding such matters.

8) Provide information.
Your parents may not know about the legal and financial options available to them. If this is true, you can serve as a resource for information and guidance. This will help overcome obstacles to good conversations.

9) Know when conversations are not working.
It’s important to assess and diagnose problems if you find your discussions are not going well. You may not be coming across the way you think you are. Or perhaps you are not well-informed about matters. If necessary, connect your parents with a third party such as financial planner or lawyer.

10) Give your parents the utmost respect.
Your parents have lived a long time and have learned much. They are also going through old age, a rewarding stage of life but also one of loss, loss of health, loss of friends and loss of independence. At a time like this, reassure your parents that you will support them during this stage of their lives.