MAGGIE KELLY 

Elderly lady who is going into retirement hugging her daughter.
The stage of your life when your parents start to move into retirement is a hard one: all of a sudden, your role as the child is flipped on its head, and you start to become more of the carer.In a short space of time you will need to address some pretty big issues: their health, their home, and even their wills. So, where to begin?Here are four good places to start, when speaking with your parents about the next stage in their life.

1. Where do you want to live?

Working out a long-term living plan, including a discussion about aged-care facilities is much easier – and more rational – whilst your parents are still in good health, eliminating difficult conversations in the future.

What people may not realise is that the waiting list for these facilities can be months long and need to be inspected and viewed first. Also, retirement villages are very different places to aged care centres, depending on the level of care required. Do your research and put together some practical options.

Having the chat about their long term living plan might feel pre-emptive while they’re still in good health, but making sure they have full control over this decision makes it easier for all involved.

Couple who are considering retirement holding hands.

“Do your research and put together some practical options.” Image: iStock.

2. Can you hear and see properly?

We might joke about our mums and dads ‘getting old’ as they squint at computer screens or turn up the radio, but weakening senses is a very real and frustrating challenge that we all face at different life stages.

Baby Boomers are a notoriously stubborn generation, and it is unlikely they will take action to help their vision or hearing.

According to the Hearing Care Industry Association Australia, only one in four people who could benefit from a hearing aid have one, and “…there is an average of seven years between a person needing help with hearing and actually seeking help.” That’s a long time of living in discomfort, especially for something that is as easy to address as wearing prescription glasses for sight issues.

Get in early. Educate your parents on the remarkable new options on the market: Phonak Hearing Aids, for example, have listened to the needs of hearing aid wearers and have created the world’s first built in, lithium-ion battery.

It can be worn for up to 24 hours without needing a charge, and when it does it’s as easy as charging a mobile phone.

Man receiving a hearing aide.

“It can be worn for up to 24 hours without needing a charge.” Image: iStock.

This gives them an amazing amount of freedom to still be getting out and about, without having to worry about replacing small batteries, or having to carry extras around.

These multiple on-the-go charging options means that there is now a more flexible option suited to any lifestyle, suited for avid overseas travellers to full days out with the family and running around after the grandkids.

The Phonak Audeo B-R means that not only are your parents able to hear without worrying about charging their hearing aid or having spare batteries, but encourages better communication between you, minus the frustration.

3. Who is your doctor?

It is a fact of life that the older we get, the more tired our bodies become. With a possibility of an increase of medical issues, encouraging your parents to get into the routine of regular check-ups with their GP now, will start a good habit of being proactive with their health. As your parents move into their later years, they will have a regular GP and a network of specialists they can call on.

Sit down and make a list with them about who to call in the case of an emergency. Who is their local doctor, and will they be able to remain their patient, even after they stop driving? How far away are they? Do they suffer from a specific medical issue, and if so, who is their regular specialist? If something happens to them, who is the best person for YOU to call?

Having emergency numbers clearly marked somewhere in their home is both practical and calming – emergencies can cause people to panic and forget, so having these numbers readily available means help can be on hand, fast.

4. How will you stay social?

Chronic loneliness and isolation is one of the biggest issues currently facing Australia’s older population.

Encouraging your parents to keep active and social in their older years is so important. Trying new things, joining new groups and volunteering are good places to start. Consider community events like bridge, yoga, or even art classes to keep your parents connected and involved.

Retired lady having tea with her friend.

“Keep your parents active and social.” Image: iStock.

None of these are conversations you want to have, but putting them off will only make them the elephant in the room.

Feeling like you have addressed the toughest issues will free up time to get on and enjoy life.

So – make a date, make some tea, and get the awkward questions out of the way. It’s your time to be the support for your parents, that they’ve always been for you.

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