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Talking About the Future with an Aging Parent

an eldery man holding a younger mans hand
By Kathryn Parks

Many aging adults avoid the topic of what they want to happen when they are too old to care for themselves, or how they want their body handled when they die. These topics can often seem uncomfortable or morbid to the people involved, and the conversation often ends up being avoided.

Although the future can be an uncomfortable topic for everyone involved, it’s something that needs to be discussed to make sure that your parents’ needs and desires are taken care of.

Start as early as possible

If you wait until your parents have already experienced mental decline, it will be much harder to find out what their desires are. Unfortunately, this can also make the conversation harder because it’s easier for your parents to rebuff.

After all, if you ask them in their early 60s before they are even of retirement age, it might seem like a long way off. You may have to ask about their desires in a more indirect way, such as pointing out a story on the news or the illness of a family member.

What would you do if knocked off your feet by a natural disaster?

Many parents dig in their heels when asked what to do if they have a medical incident. They don’t want to picture themselves old or feeble, and the easiest way is to decide that won’t happen to them anytime soon. Pressuring your parents for a response to what would happen if they fall and can’t get up will end in something like, “that won’t happen,” but approaching the question in a different way can help.

Ask your parents instead what they would do if an earthquake, hurricane, or other natural disaster injured them and caused them to be hospitalized. Even if they say it won’t happen, you can point out that it happens all the time to people of all ages—perhaps even suggest your own plans for if it happened to you.

It’s safe for them to answer because it doesn’t involve the sensitive talk about aging, but it will provide you with vital clues on how they want to be handled medically.

Be respectful

Aging can be a very sensitive topic, and your parents may put you off simply because of the nature of the topic. It’s important to keep your conversations respectful, and never belittle their age. Keeping the conversation friendly and open can go a long way to a positive outcome for the conversation.

Ask about records

When your parents are ready for a conversation, ask them about documents and where they are kept. It’s important to know what insurance they have, where their birth certificate is, and other important information in case they are incapacitated for some reason.

If they’re open to talking about themselves as they grow older, it’s good to ask questions like whether they will want a caregiver when they are no longer mobile, if they want to age at home, and how they want their body to be treated after death.

These conversations are difficult, but they are extremely important to have. It’s worth taking your time about it, and starting this conversation as often as necessary to get the information you need.

For more information, or to discuss care for an aging loved one, contact the professional caregivers at Homewatch CareGivers of Annapolis today.

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