Having the “talk” with Aging Parents

Having the "talk"

Just thinking about providing care for aging parents can be difficult. What’s more difficult is sitting down and actually having that talk.

Most of us put off important decisions until much too late. But discussing estate planning, financial matters, and personal care for aging parents aren’t things you want to put off. The unfortunate truth is that things can sometimes change very quickly, and with health, it pays to be prepared. A lot of us forget that even simple things such as a walker or a wheel chair can cost anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars, and that implementing new strategies for Mom and Dad can take time.

The first step in discussing personal care with aging parents is to find the right time and the right place.

While it may seem like there is never quite the right time or the right place – pick a time and a place that is safe and comfortable for all of you.

The first sign that an aging individual needs support is when simple daily activities become difficult.  It is important not to ignore the little things; for instance, if your parent’s house was regularly well-kept, but has recently been looking unclean, that is often a sign that some extra support could be required. If getting groceries isn’t easily attainable, and laundry’s beginning to pile up, a few hours of home support may be all that’s required. Bringing up how Mom and Dad are feeling about doing these tasks may be a good start. Something like, “how has grocery shopping been lately? Have you been having a harder time carrying all of the bags?”

Usually there will be tell tale signs of whether Mom and Dad are having difficulty with daily tasks, but asking them if they’re having problems is much more empowering than directly confronting them with something like, “I see you’re having problems walking, it’s time to start thinking about a nursing home.”

It may be worth contacting an Occupational Therapist to assess your parents living conditions.

The risk of falling increases with age, and an Occupational Therapist is trained to see hazards and implement safety features. Removing a tripping hazard such as an old, fraying rug, or planning the installment of a guard rail beside steps can drastically reduce the likelihood of injury. An Occupational Therapist is trained to see potential risks, such as replacing the old gas stove, which may accidentally be left on, with a safer electric model.

If support is already in place for shopping, cleaning, and laundry, try to assess what difficulties may lay ahead. Personal care tasks such as bathing, footcare, and dressing may be next. While the Baby-Boomer generation may be reluctant to have someone else help them with such simple tasks, it may further increase life expectancy and comfort by reducing risk of disease and injury.

In thinking about what the next steps are for taking care of Mom and Dad, realize that there are many options.

Many seniors prefer not to hear the words “care home.” There are many other viable options such as hiring a personal care worker, hiring a registered nurse, or hiring a full-time live in care taker. Each option should be explored and discussed with Mom and Dad in order to provide the most comfortable experience for them.

Just thinking about this discussion can stir up a lot of emotion. But whatever you do, don’t put it off. Planning ahead for aging parents will be one of the most respectful, considerate, and rewarding experiences you do in your lifetime.