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What You Need To Know About Your Aging Parents That No One Wants To Talk About—Part 4

So you are ready to talk to you parents about their plans for their elder years. You have an opening line and you are ready to listen. But, what are the topics you should cover? Remember, you don't have to talk about all of these subjects at once. It's better to spread them out over several meetings with your parents.

The most important things to discuss with your parents are their goals and needs. Once you determine these, they become the basis for all future conversations and decisions about housing, finances and medical care. Find out what your parents want most out of life now. Is there something big that they would like to do like a trip or a large project, or would they rather focus on the simpler things in life like hobbies or family? After that, consider these topics:

Daily Activities:

  • How are your parents managing day-to-day?

  • Can they bathe and dress themselves?

  • Can they shop for groceries and prepare food?

  • Do they still drive a car and pay their bills?

  • What do your parents see as their biggest obstacles?

Your parents may get embarrassed admitting to any problems they are having, so approach with dignity and reassurance that you all need to know what the problems are in order to find solutions together and it doesn't mean that you want to ship them off to the “home.”

Housing:

  • How do your parents feel about their current living situation?

  • Are there changes that can be made to make their lives more manageable?

  • Where would they want to live if they could no longer live in their home?

  • If they do have to move, what is most important to them (proximity to family, staying in their home town, keeping pets, climate)?

  • Is it possible for them to live with family members?

Even if your parents have no interest in any type of senior housing, it's important to consider all of the options before you would ever need them. Living at home without the ability to be active can be lonely, so it's prudent to have a back up plan.

Use a local placement specialist in your area (it's free and way better than giving your personal details online) and research some community resources so you will be prepared if your parents' living situation needs to change. Remember, you are not making any decisions yet without their input. You are only researching and gathering information.

Medical Care:

  • Do your parents have a good primary care physician (PCP) that they trust?

  • Does this doctor take all of their complaints seriously including mild memory loss, depression, incontinence, stiff joints, anxiety or insomnia?

  • Have your parents legally appointed someone they trust as their health care proxy to make medical decisions for them should they become unable to do so themselves?

  • If so, have they talked to that person about their specific wishes regarding the level of care they want should they become gravely ill?

  • What is most important to your parents—mobility, lucidity, comfort, quality of life?

  • What does“quality of life” mean to them?

These last questions regarding medical care, lead us to a discussion of end-of-life care and what that means for your parents. It's not always an easy conversation to have, but it is really important not only to ensure that your parents wishes are clear and fulfilled, but that when the time comes, it won't be a struggle or crisis for you and your siblings when the end is near. We'll talk about that in the final installment of this series.

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