Growing up in Kansas was a wonderful place to just be a kid. While my siblings and I would explore and play, my mom was the one that looked out for us, making sure we ate breakfast, had lunch and prepared a homemade dinner every evening. We were lucky. We didn’t know that we had limited income and never heard about the day-to-day struggles that our folks had in regard to paying the bills. We only knew that our parents loved and took care of us. They kept the “grown-up stuff” to themselves, never talking about money, health or other important issues.
Fast forward after being “the child” for 60 years and trying to communicate with your parents regarding bills, income, living arrangements and planning for their future needs. It’s not easy. Parents are used to controlling the dialogue. The truly difficult part of a conversation like this is how to start it. How do you convince your parents that it’s important for their adult children to be involved with the planning of their future?
One way is to start by discussing what’s going on with their health, review what their parent’s health and longevity looked like, and ask what they’d like their future to look like. Everyone’s ideas of getting older are different.
Please don’t kid yourself; you cannot parent your parent. What you can do is offer supportive ideas, voice any concerns you have and then listen. Genuinely listen to their concerns and understand why they prefer staying home rather than moving, appreciate the reasons they don’t want to talk about “it” and follow the queues they give you.
It’s likely they may be afraid of change or scared that if they move they’ll be with the “old” people, and that will make them feel old.
Sometimes it’s helpful to put the aging process on paper. Review your parent(s) current health status and lifestyle preferences. Then show them what they can possibly expect regarding health and what the future could look like. List options such as staying home, moving to a retirement community, an independent or assisted living apartment, or even a continuous care retirement community.
Providing a comparison of each type of living arrangement may help them visualize the levels of engagement, socialization, activities and associated costs. Life certainly doesn’t end when you get older, the activities just change and adapt to a person’s current lifestyle.
Offer a suggestion of a respite stay in a senior community that is best suited to them. The short-term visit will provide an actual experience of what life could look like. Moving into a senior community is a life-choice and it should be your parent’s choice. Supporting whatever decision they make is very important to your relationship.
Elderwerks works with hundreds of older adults each year, carefully helping them make the best lifestyle decisions possible. If you are encountering difficulty with guiding your parents toward the next chapter in life, we’re a phone call away.
• Jennifer Prell is President of Elderwerks Educational Services, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization offering complimentary information, referrals and guidance to older adults, seniors and their families for senior living, care, support and benefits. Elderwerks and Jennifer Prell do not receive any compensation for mentions of any product or website.