Navigating Difficult Discussions with Aging Parents
Taking care of an aging parent can be a difficult task. We all want our parents to be happy and comfortable, but that can be hard with the challenges of aging. As we age, sometimes stubbornness becomes a more significant part of our personality. Below are some ways to navigate difficult, but necessary conversations with seniors who you’re caring for.
Most people don’t like talking about money, especially if they’re relying on other people for financial, emotional, or physical support. As a caregiver, it’s important you know the state of your parents’ finances, particularly their insurance. Over 25% of seniors have let their life insurance lapse, some of them unknowingly. So, check in with your parents about the state of their insurance and what it covers. It will not be a pleasant conversation, since at this stage of life, burial and funeral insurance are often mentioned as part of this conversation. Don’t worry. Just assure your parent that you’re asking these questions so you can provide the best care for them and make sure all their needs are met.
You can also make sure they’re not paying for coverage they don’t need. As we age, we have fewer financial obligations, meaning that as our houses get paid off and retirement assets grow, the amount of insurance we need decreases. Also, you’ll want to make sure that any bundled items included on their insurance are still applicable. Framing the discussion around these concerns can help alleviate some of the automatic defenses that arise when money is mentioned.
Few people enjoy going to the doctor, and even fewer enjoy having health issues be a daily part of their lives. Unfortunately, as we age, we experience more of both of these situations. As a caregiver, it’s important that you’re aware of any diagnoses your parent has received, as well as treatment plans for those diagnoses. Check in to make sure your parent is following their treatment plans and (the hard part) taking their medications.
If your senior charge doesn’t want to follow their treatment plan, offer to discuss alternative treatments with their doctor. Figure out what their concerns are and see if there are other options. For example, if one of their medications makes them feel foggy or not like themselves, their doctor can probably prescribe an alternative. Just keep conversation open and make it clear that not following their treatments will not solve any problems, it may simply make things worse.
If your parent is staying at their home or moving into yours, it is very likely that repairs and upgrades will be needed. This is due to both normal wear and tear and the fact that the elderly often require specific accommodations. Your parent may not want an ADA-safe shower or other changes to their home, but you’ll have to convince them that taking safety precautions does not make them weak. On the contrary, it keeps them strong. Safety precautions like wheelchair ramps can prevent uncontrolled falls and lessen the chance of injury. Offer to oversee any renovations, and show them that you’ve done your research into ADA handrail height requirements and other details they won’t want to keep track of.
Being a caregiver is a hard job, and many people take on the task while still working full time and even raising their own kids. Navigating these conversations will require a lot of patience and kindness. Be ready to face defensiveness, but simply lay out your intentions and the desire to make sure your parent is living the best quality of life possible. Be sure to take care of yourself as well and take the necessary steps to prevent compassion fatigue. After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of anyone else.
About the Author: Jeriann writes about finances, wedding planning, and general life issues. You can check out more of her writing at dairyairhead.com.