One of the most stressful and overwhelming discussions adult children can have with their parents is about aging and independent living.
Talking with your parents about their ability to care for themselves and their home is something many of us resist. We don’t want our parents to feel that they are being forced to do anything, especially giving up their independence. We also don’t want a heated discussion with our mom and dad about an unpleasant topic, like whether or not they need a personal emergency response system.
By the same token, many of us also recognize that our parents are aging and that they may need additional measures, like PERS, for their care and safety.
So how do you begin a conversation with your parents about this important issue? Experts suggest you take the following measures:
Make it an ongoing discussion – It’s best to hold this conversation before a crisis develops. Let your parents know that as their adult child, you want the best for them and you want to follow their wishes. Ask your parents to share their wishes with you so you can be there to help them along the way.
Choose your words carefully – What starts as a discussion may quickly escalate into an argument if you don’t handle things correctly. Some parents may feel threatened and lash out. No one likes getting older and on one likes to admit that aging may impact their ability to care for themselves. Make it a point to speak in a calm, clear, and pleasant voice.
Identify all options – If both of your parents are alive and living together, ask them what they’d like to happen if one of them dies. No doubt it will be a difficult conversation but it will help you learn their desires. Although they both may be OK right now, ask them what they expect if that changes.
Express your desire to help – It’s important to hold discussions that enable you to understand your parent’s desires. It’s not your place to dictate actions and behaviors to them. It’s your place to help them and love them. Make sure your mom and dad understand your sincere desire to understand their needs and that you are there to help them.
Use technology to help parents maintain their independence – Modern technology can help you care for your parents without putting them into an assisted living facility or using in-home care options. Two of our favorites are personal emergency response systems and home automation systems. Personal emergency response systems allow your parents to summon emergency help when needed via an alarm monitoring center, and the monitoring center may even check in with your parents at regular intervals to ensure everything is OK. Home automation systems can automate certain functions while allowing you to watch in real time what’s happening at your parent’s home right from your smartphone or tablet.
The idea of being a burden and unable to care for themselves can be terrifying to your parents. They know that day may likely come and understandably they want to put it off as long as possible. With empathy, understanding, planning and lots of love, you’ll help them successfully handle life’s inevitable transitions.