In the landscape of family issues, few topics are more difficult to approach than that of aging parents. Regardless of your economic background or your relationship with your parents, these topics prove to be difficult for individuals across the board. One of the reasons that these topics are so difficult to address is because of the strong emotions that are often attached to the idea of our parents aging and possibly needing our help. When parents begin to age, there is a role reversal for parents and kids that can be, at best, uneasy. However, there are more important issues at stake than our mere comfort levels when it comes to keeping our parents or other aging family members’ best interests in mind. One of the best places to start preparing for these tough conversations is to identify the topics that need addressing.
For many aging individuals, driving becomes far more difficult as their vision begins to fail and their response time decreases. The difficulty, however, lies in the fact that these same individuals often do not realize that their ability to drive safely has decreased. This leaves the burden on the adult children to discuss this safety issue, often being the one to bring it up. When discussing the ability to drive with your aging family, be prepared for a certain amount of resistance at first. If the topic is approached delicately and compassionately, however, your family members will understand that you truly have their best interests in mind.
Wills and Trusts
For many families, discussing wills and estate planning is not just uncomfortable, but actually, borders on the taboo. Some families even consider it rude to bring up such topics at all. This type of outdated thinking, however, can have dire circumstances. When information concerning wills and trusts are not discussed openly and transparently, then there can be terrible misunderstandings that can cause long-term pain and confusion for all family members involved.
In order to get your family members past the idea that discussing money, wills and trusts are off limits, try approaching the issues from the standpoint of an objective person who simply wants to make sure that everyone involved experiences the least amount of confusion and pain during what will already be a troubling event. Explain to your loved ones that you are more concerned with clarity than you are concerned with amounts of money. Transparency and sincerity are important aspects of these tough conversations.
It is also important to understand your parents’ or relatives’ perspective on these topics. Discussions of aging are troubling and uncomfortable for the aging individual, as these topics are often associated with great feelings of sadness, insecurity, and inferiority. For these reasons, a great amount of compassion and understanding must be used during these conversations.
Long-term care is another tough area that adult children must find a way to discuss with their aging parents. This topic is important because adult children want to make sure that their parents will have the most comfortable situation once they reach a point of retirement and possibly residential care. In order to make sure all family members are on the same page concerning what type of long-term care will be the most appropriate, this discussion must be brought up. Most family members find that time during the holidays, when the family is relaxed and all together, proves to be an ideal time to have this conversation.
When these topics are discussed freely with an eye open for solutions, a family can rally together.