Although it can be a difficult task, it’s important to start the conversation early as possible and not wait until something happens that forces an immediate lifestyle change.
Additionally, understand these are sensitive topics, and your parent may be struggling with the perception of aging and may be uncomfortable discussing these topics with you. As a result, your parent may resist or start an argument every time you attempt to discuss. Try to find a balance between respecting your parent’s autonomy and independence and your concern.
While there are potentially many topics for discussion, you’ll want to discuss some of the major categories, including medical care, legal and finances, living arrangements and home safety. While each of these topics is important, choose what you feel is essential to discuss first and expect to have multiple conversations.
Do you know what medications your parents take? Or if there is one coordinating doctor or multiple physicians?
It may be necessary to communicate directly with medical providers and stay informed about your parents’ medical care. To speak with medical providers, you’d likely need permission and possibly a signed medical release form.
Now is the time to discuss medical care and make any necessary arrangements.
Legal and Financial Documents
There are many types of legal and financial documents your aging parents may want to start gathering. Some of the most important documents include:
- Will and Trust
- Durable Power of Attorney (for both healthcare and finances)
- Contact information for Parent’s Attorney, Doctor’s Office and Insurance Company
It’s not only important for your parents to have these documents, but you should also know where this information is and have access.
Suppose your parents do not have an attorney or you need additional information on important documents you should discuss with your parents. In that case, The National Institute on Aging offers free resources on advanced care planning.
According to AARP, most seniors would like to live in their current homes for as long as possible. However, having a solid plan is a key factor in aging in place. If your parents fall into the 90% that want to spend their golden years at home, you’ll want to start thinking about and discussing home health services and home modifications that may need to be made for successful independent living.
While aging in place promotes independence and self-reliance, it’s not for everyone. What if your parents don’t want to age in place or, for some reason, are unable? Will your parents live with you or a sibling? Will they move into a nursing home or an assisted living facility?
Have a conversation about how your parents want to live and make a budget and plan supporting their wishes.
If your parents decide to age in place, there are many things to consider from a safety perspective.
Falls are a common occurrence for aging adults and one of the leading causes of injury for age 65 and older. According to the CDC, about 36 million older adults fall each year—resulting in more than 32,000 deaths. In addition, each year, nearly 3 million older adults are treated in emergency departments for a fall injury.
Reducing fall risk isn’t the only safety issue to discuss with your parents. Accessing help in an emergency can be made easier with medical alert devices, GPS tracking devices and telehealth services. Even if your parents are not tech-savvy, these easy-to-use devices can make aging in place more accessible.
Lastly, home safety also means security. Unfortunately, criminals make security cameras, alarms systems, and window locks an essential part of home safety. Be sure to discuss security as a part of safely aging in place with your parents.
Home modifications may need to be made to make the home more accessible. For example, grab bars or railings in bathrooms and bedrooms may need to be installed to help prevent slip-and-fall injuries.
Some of the easiest and most cost-effective home modifications for seniors are updates to doors and doorways. Simple things like replacing existing hinges with offset door hinges and changing standard door knobs to levers can make a huge difference.
If your parents’ home has stairs, a stairlift may be a great option to help maintain mobility and is much less expensive than moving into a new home.
Educating yourself and discussing possible home modifications with your parents can help plan a safer living environment.
There are many things to discuss with your aging parents, and these five topics are just a start to what could be a long and difficult conversation. The decisions that need to be made don’t get any easier with time, so it’s important to engage in the conversation and start making plans as soon as possible.