It can be hard to have the conversation with parents or loved ones about how they want to live their lives as they grow older.
You want the very best for them and it is important to have a plan so they can live well in the homes and communities they love.
As your parents and loved ones get older, their needs can gradually change over time. If they have a major health diagnosis or an accident, the weight of your responsibility increases.
These family milestones can happen at the exact time when you’re trying to raise your own family.
Adults who are part of the sandwich generation — those who have a living parent age 65 or older and are either raising a child under age 18 or supporting a grown child—are pulled in many directions. Those in the sandwich generation report a lack of bandwidth to make sure parents and children are getting the care and attention they need.
The good news is that you’re not alone. But it’s important to be proactive. The earlier you begin talking to your parents about their future, the better you can help them prepare for it. It means when things do change, you’ve got a plan and the appropriate service in place to make it happen.
Here are 5 tips to help you break the ice and get your loved ones talking and you listening.
Choose your time and place carefully
We all want our loved ones to live engaged and successful lives in the homes & communities they love. But sometimes it can be hard to start the conversation
Conversations are best had in a relaxed, quiet setting where you and your parent/s can talk uninterrupted about how they’re managing. It’s important to understand that they may feel embarrassed or uncomfortable talking about their changing needs. They also might not talk in front of other family members, so avoid broaching the subject when your children, siblings or others are around.
Use a friend or family member’s experience as a conversation starter
One of the best ways to address future living issues with your parents is to begin by referencing someone else’s experience.
Talk about “when Aunty Carol fell ill and the doctor spoke to Cousin Sarah about care options”, then explain how that experience made you realise how important it is to have that conversation with your parents ahead of time.
Often the key to getting them to open-up is to position the conversation as one you need to have for your own peace of mind. After all, your parents have spent their lives protecting you and trying to help you solve problems…so their natural inclination if you voice this concern will be to assist you by addressing it.
Ask them to describe what ‘successful ageing’ looks like to them
It is very possible that your view of ‘successful ageing’ and theirs are worlds apart. You might think that a retirement village with round-the-clock care is the ideal scenario.
In fact, the Australian Institue of Health and Welfare report many older Australians want to age in place. The Royal Commission into Aged Care found more 85% of Australians would like to continue living in their own home if they need support.
It’s therefore important that you ask them how they see themselves living in both the short term, the longer term and in the case of an accident or medical episode. Only then can you both work together to make that – or an adaptation of it – happen by engaging the right care partners to suit both their emotional, physical, and financial needs and yours.
Acknowledge the importance of their feelings
Change is hard and often frightening, especially for our loved ones who are moving to a different part of their life. There is nothing worse than feeling out of control of your own life, and though in reality they may be unable to make all the decisions for themselves and their care, it’s important that they feel consulted.
At the same time however, for your own emotional wellbeing you need to be honest about how their vision for their future may impact you and your family and discuss what is realistic. They might think moving into your already jam-packed house is a great plan but if that’s not what is best for your family then you need to be honest and agree on a Plan B.
Make a list of things they need help with now and in the longer term
If you’re aiming for just one thing out of this conversation with your parents, it should be a greater understanding of their needs.
There’s every likelihood that you may know this already from the degree of care you are already providing them, however needs can change over time or even immediately. It is important you discuss with them the help they believe they need now and what additional help they may require in the longer term.
This could be anything from a few hours a week of garden maintenance to daily in-home health care and everything in between so it’s important you discuss in detail what they need, when they’ll need it and how often.
Feeling overwhelmed caring your loved ones?
Five Good Friends understands that some of the most important choices in life are those that support the ability for your loved ones to stay in the home and community they love.
Five Good Friends do home care differently – more control, empowering technology, more hours of care and exceptional service.
Begin today online so we can get to know you and your loved ones support needs. You can also call 1300 787 581 anytime during business hours to talk to our Care Advice team, who will be able to provide support and clarify any of your concerns.