As conversations with your parents go, this talk is one of the hardest. It’s probably harder than the sex talk, when you were in school and wanted to jump out of your skin. Just like that conversation, however, this one doesn’t have to be horrible, so long as you go into it well prepared, with your eyes open.
Most adult children don’t want to be parents to their parents. For many elderly people, however, there comes a time when basic daily activities like bathing, dressing and eating become difficult. Unless you have the ability and desire to personally attend to your parents’ needs, you need to consider other ways to provide for them.
Listen. The best way to approach one or both of your parents about getting help is gradually. Many people are naturally resistant to bringing a stranger into their home or moving into a care facility. Your parents may also be facing some denial about their own aging and health issues. It’s important to listen to your parents’ concerns and be patient. If your parent is very resistant, consider bringing in a professional geriatric care manager to facilitate the discussion.
Take it slow. If possible, start off long-term care incrementally. If your parent can no longer drive and needs help running errands, have a helper come a couple days a week. If your parent only needs help in the mornings, have a part-time health aide come over for a couple of hours a day. If your parent’s needs progress, you can increase the amount of in-home care they receive.
Empower them. Assisted-living facilities and skilled nursing care are also options you can consider. It’s common for elderly people to prefer to stay in their home as long as possible, but there may come a time when that is no longer realistic. Include your parents as much as possible in any decision about living arrangements. Your parents will do better in housing situations if they feel like they had say in where they ended up.
Prepare. Some of your choices for long-term care for your parents will be constrained by the financial circumstances. Make sure you are up-to-date on your parents’ finances including retirement accounts, bank accounts, stock portfolios, mortgage and insurance policies. It’s also smart to have a durable power of attorney in hand should you need to assume control of your parents’ assets.
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