If you are going home to visit family over the holidays, you may notice a change in your parents’ mental or physical condition. Perhaps your father is more forgetful, or maybe your mom is struggling with household tasks. If you suspect things are beginning to change, the holidays may present the perfect opportunity to ‘check in’ with them. In fact, if you haven’t found the right opportunities in the past, it may be time to have a conversation with them about inevitable issues related to aging. Specifically: health, finances, driving and living arrangements.
These conversations are not easy! Not for you and not for a senior who may prefer to focus on their strengths and vitalities as opposed to the potential for future challenges. No one wants to plan for getting old. But planning is essential! And if to date you’ve managed to avert sudden changes brought about by a major health crisis or an unexpected accident, consider yourself lucky! Then put on a pot of tea, find a comfy spot on the sofa, and begin the conversation about the days ahead.
Remember, ageing is not some taboo topic; it’s a fundamental part of life. We are all headed in the same direction – some are just a little further up the road than you. Here are some tips to help you begin an important dialogue that will hopefully lead to a meaningful and viable plan.
Ask where your loved one is at: what things bring them joy, what aspects of life are most important to them, and how they see their future playing out. The most important messages you can convey are: I value your thoughts and wishes, I honour your choices, this is your journey. It’s quite possible your loved one has done plenty of reflecting on what matters to them and where they see themselves down the road. Perhaps they’ve been waiting for this door to open for sharing.
Listen more than you talk. Make it apparent that you are hearing and comprehending by reiterating what you perceive they are saying. If they seem open – let the conversation flow. If there is reservation, take it slow and suggest that they give things more thought and share more at a later date.
Now that you’ve begun the conversation, plan to continue and at whatever pace feels right, move in the direction of making some definitive action plans. Consider other family member or friends who might want (or need) to be a part of the discussion. Get consent from your loved one to invite them to join you in the next chat session and then set a date.
You did it! You are off and running. If it went well, don’t stop. If it didn’t go well, don’t stop. Either way, you are doing a vitally important favour to your loved one and to all those who care about them. By opening up the lines of communication and venturing forward with willingness, openness and kindness, you are tackling the next chapter with all the best intentions.
In the coming months watch for: