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Starting A Conversation About the Future with Your Elderly Parents

- Tuesday, May 03, 2011

As a middle aged child, it is common to wonder about how to start to talk to elderly parents about the future? Few things make adult children more nervous. There are many things to fear from this conversation: resistance, denial, conflict and reminding ourselves that our parents are getting older.

But we should fear an impending problem or crisis more.

Beginning the conversation with aging parents is similar to learning to ride a bike. You don’t take off going downhill; you muster up the nerve, hold your breath and try to keep your balance.

Start the conversation now, while they are healthy and you have no real concerns; and start small. This way there is time to build the conversation slowly without pressure.  Unexpected situations or crises with aging parents without having planned can cause rifts between siblings, between parents and kids, and between spouses.

Time your conversation with your parents appropriately. Be sure that you and they have time to talk and listen.  This conversation needs an investment of time and patience.

It is easier to begin the conversation by relating it to your own experience. For example, “I met with my attorney today and drew up my will…”

You need to be clear with yourself and your parents about why you are initiating this conversation. If you are annoyed or frustrated, this is not a good time. The conversation needs to be about their safety and their future, and about the quality of life for both them and you.

Remember too that you don’t need to get the answer today. You are merely trying to begin the dialogue and get everyone thinking and talking.