Communicating with Older Parents

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Often times family members hesitate to talk with their aging parents about common topics of concern such as changes to health, transportation, home carelegal and financial issues as well as retirement housing.  

Geriatric professionals suggest it is much better to have these parent conversations sooner rather than later. It is often too late to make informed decisions or be sensitive to everyone’s point of view once a personal or medical crisis occurs. Decisions that could have been made in advance end up being made in a rush; resulting in regret, remorse and unnecessary expense.

Such conversations are not always easy. Adult children may avoid difficult communications regarding health concerns because they may not want to face the fact their parents are getting older. They may also feel that asking too many “prying” questions could jeopardize good relationships with parents and siblings. On the other hand, they may also wish to avoid the additional responsibilities that are sure to surface as parent care issues are exposed.

Yet communications about a moving, downsizing, daily activities, long term care, advanced directives and other end of life issues are very important. Individuals who prepare and communicate their plans and wishes in advance gain a sense of comfort that their wishes will be honored. They are able to determine their own surrogate decision-makers and gain confidence that family members will act in a timely manner and in accordance with their wishes.

The rest of the family will benefit from increased clarity and decreased conflict with siblings. They gain a sense of comfort knowing they are respecting their parents’ decisions and values. 

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