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What You Need To Know About Your Aging Parents That No One Wants To Talk About--Part 2

In part one of What You Need To Know About Your Aging Parents That No One Wants To Talk About, we talked about the importance of having a plan in place long before your parents need any level of care.

The notion of having a plan is nothing new. The military has an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for everything it does and hospitals have policies and procedures. But the subject of these plans is not as personal or emotional as making a plan for your parents' care in their elder years or how they would like to be treated at the end of their life. These are issues that we would rather not think about let alone talk about, but if you take the time to do it, it will make the inevitable a little easier. You won't have to agonize over what you think your parents wishes might be when they can no longer express them if you've already had the conversation with them.

Timing Is Everything.

The trick is to start these conversations early and to have them often. When the conversations are spread out over time, the subject can be dealt with in bite-sized pieces making them much easier to swallow.

  • Talk to your parent about how he wants to spend his elder years.

  • Have a family meeting to discuss your parent's current care and future needs.

  • Assign jobs and sort out finances.

  • Discuss the sort of care they might need or want as they grow more frail.

Having a plan in place will give your parent time to prepare for change and will mean less work when your parent actually needs the help. You'll already know what to do!

So, how do you start such a conversation?

Well, that depends on the situation at hand and the relationship you have with your parent. If your parent is already ill and the situation is serious, the best way may be the direct approach: “Mom, considering your state of health and what the doctors have told us, I think it's important that we talk about a few things.” If there are no urgent decisions to make and you have more time, you can be more subtle by asking your parent for advice: “Dad, Dave and I are setting up a plan for retirement and I was wondering how you and mom approached this. Do you feel like you've saved enough? Did you make arrangements for long-term care or buy long-term care insurance?”

You can also talk about a friend or family member's situation or even use an article or radio or television program to begin a dialogue. However you choose to start the conversation, keep it going and be ready to really listen. We'll talk more about that in part 3.

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