What do you do when you start noticing a decline in your parents’ health or living conditions? How do you approach one or both parents when a change in their living situation is inevitable?
Having “the talk” can be awkward for both parents and their children alike.
In a perfect world, plans and wishes have been discussed long before a crisis occurs. But in reality, a crisis such as a hospitalization, a sudden illness or a fall often prompts the discussion about where to go from here – whether it be an Assisted Living facility or a Nursing Home offering 24-hour care. Decisions must now be made under duress, choices may be limited and finances may not be in order.
So the time to have “the talk” is before a crisis occurs.
Before you have “the talk” with your parents, you should speak with other family members, friends or neighbors. Get some background information from them about one or both parents’ behavior and come to a better understanding of the situation so you can present a unified front. You want to make sure everyone is on the same page before approaching Mom and Dad. Review information about various senior living options and resources for family members so that you will be armed with the confidence that comes with knowledge.
You could lead into the conversation by talking about specific examples as a springboard for “the talk” – you could say, “Mom and Dad, I’m concerned about your health and your ability to continue to live at home. I think its time to discuss your living options.” Continue with “This is what I’ve noticed the last several times I’ve been to visit.” Then give observations pertaining to either a specific health ailment or a general decline in health reflected in poor housekeeping or hygiene.
Validate their strengths, all the things that they are still doing well that do not concern you. That way the conversation is not all about “You’re failing this, you’re failing that.” Instead say, “I think you may need specific help with this.” For example, “When I come over I notice the carpet isn’t as clean as it used to be. It doesn’t appear to have been vacuumed in a while.” This works well if there are a few specific issues that need to be addressed.
Don’t make “the talk” bigger or more dramatic than it needs to be. You don’t necessarily need to have the whole family show up; that could seem like an “us versus them” confrontation. It could be very overwhelming and intimidating for the parent.
If there are a series of small problems that are mounting then perhaps you need to have a more serious conversation with Mom and Dad.
If you’d like to share some advice, or have a question about caring for your aging parent, please write a comment to me below.