December 28, 2018

Photo of nurse and elderly woman in pink sweater drinking tea on sofa in assisted living facility

Conversations with aging parents

It can be uncomfortable to discuss sensitive topics like health and long-term care with your aging parents. Many people would rather delay bringing up these subjects as long as possible to avoid upsetting their parents or creating conflict.

However, it’s important to start conversations about the future early, while your parents are still relatively independent and in good health. If you put off such discussions too long, you may find yourself in the difficult position of making decisions on your parents’ behalf without knowing their wishes or plans. Here are some tough yet essential questions to ask your aging parents:

Have you been keeping in touch with friends?

Loneliness and social isolation can become serious problems for older adults, especially those who live alone. Whether it’s due to poor health, limited mobility, or the loss of friends or loved ones, it’s often difficult to maintain strong social connections as we grow older. While your parent might not admit they are lonely, you can still listen and look for clues that they are staying socially active. For example, do they share stories about participating in activities they enjoy, such as going to church or out to lunch with friends? If your parent is a typical “social butterfly” but isn’t getting out and about as much as they used to, they may benefit from the friendly environment of a senior living community.

Are you seeing the doctor regularly?

One of the best ways for older adults to remain healthy and independent is by visiting their doctor on a regular basis. Ask your parent to provide contact information for their general physician and any specialists they see, as well as a list of the medications they’re currently taking. Knowing this information could be critically important if your parent becomes hospitalized. If your parent hasn’t visited a doctor in over a year, help them schedule a check-up and offer to accompany them to the appointment.

How long do you plan on staying in your current home? Where would you consider moving?

Ask your parent if they have thought about where they want to live when they need extra care and can no longer maintain their larger home. Have they considered a senior living community? If so, is there a certain community they have in mind? It’s never too early to get the ball rolling and start exploring options for long-term care. Many families find that moving to a continuing-care retirement community is an ideal option for aging loved ones. These communities offer multiple types of care – including independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing care ­– all on the same campus, allowing older adults to move seamlessly to the next level of care as their needs change.

Ultimately, it’s best to have a series of conversations with your aging parents about their plans and wishes. While it can be difficult to discuss some of these questions, it’s well worth it to ensure your parent has an active role in making decisions about their future.