August 21, 2018

When it comes to talking to your aging parents about subjects such as health and aging, it’s natural to feel anxious or uncomfortable. Because these topics are often so emotionally charged, many people avoid voicing their concerns until their parent experiences a health crisis or other emergency.

But no matter how hard you may try to avoid having discussions about your parents’ future, there inevitably comes a time when they will no longer be able to care for themselves without help. If you don’t have a clear understanding of your parents’ needs and desires, it’s difficult to make important decisions on their behalf. Having such discussions early, while your parents are still relatively healthy and independent, will make it easier to prepare for a time when they may need more help. Here are a few essential questions to ask your aging parents.

Living situation

Do you want to live in your home for as long as possible, or will you consider downsizing to a retirement community? Would you still want to stay in your home if you were living alone?

What changes can we make to your home so it’s as safe and comfortable as possible for you? Would it make it more convenient to install handrails in the hallways and grab bars in the bathroom, or move the bedroom to a first-floor room?

Can I start researching retirement communities and assisted living facilities now, so you know what’s available when you want to move?

Activities

Do you need help with any parts of your daily routine? For example, driving, preparing meals, doing laundry, or cleaning the home. Would you benefit from hiring a weekly cleaning service or an in-home caregiver to provide extra help?

Are you involved in social activities with friends or peers? Have you been keeping in touch with family and friends? Do you ever feel lonely or wish you had more social engagement?

Health and mobility

Do you visit the doctor regularly? Are you happy with the medical care you’re receiving?

What medications do you take? Do you feel comfortable managing and keeping track of your medications?

Are you afraid to drive due to vision or hearing problems? Are you worried about securing transportation if you stop driving?

Are you able to move around easily? Could you benefit from using a cane or walker?

Don’t wait until a crisis to address your parents’ future care needs. Bringing up the subject sooner than later gives you and your parents enough time to create the best plan based on their needs and wishes. By asking your parents these questions early on, you can avoid any anxiety about the unexpected and ensure your parents feel heard and respected.