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10 Tips for Having Difficult Conversations with Aging Parents

Elderly Couple researching walk-in tubs

It may be difficult for your parents—and for you—to acknowledge the effects of aging. To some, it signifies losing autonomy and at least some degree of independence, which can be frightening. However, it’s important for you to share a conversation about the logistics of possible next steps earlier rather than later. This can ease the transition into providing extra support for your parents for both you and them. Our ten tips will guide you through having a tough but necessary conversation with aging parents.

1. Research Options for Aging Parents

Before you sit down to talk, come prepared. You may have some idea of areas where your parents already need support, but we recommend researching aging and caregiving options for your peace of mind going forward. Knowing what to expect makes any topic less frightening. You’ll also find food for thought for your conversation with research, allowing you to bring informed options for support to the table.

a man on his laptop researching walk-in tubs

2. Start Talking About Aging Early On

If possible, start your discussion before it becomes truly necessary to step in. Waiting until after an urgent medical event will put stress and strain on both you and your parents. Being proactive pays off for a conversation like this, allowing for it to take place when everyone is relaxed and in good health. 

3. Practice Patience with Parents Who May Not Be Ready to Talk

Head into the conversation with an open mind. You don’t need to have any decided outcomes from this initial conversation. If anything, it might be better to put calls on topics like finances and caregiving options off for a later discussion. During your first talk, you can offer suggestions for small ways to support your parents, but mostly you should be ready to listen. It’s possible your parents will not be ready to have this conversation at all yet, but you should make sure they know help is available, even if they’re not ready to accept it. However, if one or both of your parents are in urgent need of health or financial support, stick to your convictions and bring up support options early and often. 

4. Show Empathy for Their Life Stage and Its Impacts

Aging can be difficult for some, especially when accompanied by health concerns. Remember that while this is a tough conversation for you, it’s likely much more so for your parents. Use empathetic language, leading with “I” instead of “you,” and be compassionate, addressing any concerns your parents have with patience and understanding. This is a vulnerable conversation for your parents—thank them for being willing to have it. 

5. Ask the Right Questions with Sensitivity

Don’t make assumptions about what your parents are and are not capable of doing. Write out a few questions ahead of time to make sure you use appropriate language that’s sensitive to the challenging topic. A few examples of questions to ask include:

  • Do you have any concerns in the near term?
  • Would you like help keeping the fridge stocked?
  • How do you feel about aging in place
  • Are you able to take care of landscaping or would you like some help?
  • Have you researched in-home assistance options?
  • If something were to happen, do you have powers of attorney set up?

6. Listen to Their Needs and Challenges

Your parents need to be validated and supported during this conversation. Affirm you care and that you’re listening often. Use this discussion to address their concerns and better meet their needs. If your parents are angry or fearful, be compassionate and offer helpful suggestions after they’ve had a chance to share their position. Treat your parents with dignity and respect throughout the conversation, validating that their concerns are heard and acknowledged.

7. Take Diligent Notes

You’ll likely leave your discussion with some to-dos, so take notes as you talk to keep topics and concerns fresh on your mind. It will be helpful to document your talk so you can review notes later, especially since this is a discussion that may continue for some time. Plus, your parents’ needs may change, and having clear notes can make changing gears for further discussions on care easier. 

8. Involve Other Family Members if Necessary

Discuss your concerns with siblings, family members or family friends as needed. This will help you corroborate your own observations, and give you more material to approach the conversation. If anyone asks to be part of the conversation, use your best judgment and keep your parents’ best interests at the forefront. After you’ve had your conversation, keep everyone apprised of your parents’ health and well-being to reduce unnecessary stress on your parents. 

family sitting on their front porch

9. Seek Professional Assistance if Necessary

When determining further support for your parents, you may need professionals to step in. Whether that means visiting an attorney or legal counsel to draft out important documents or seeking in-home care for daily needs, act as a unit. These professionals are experienced at working with families in situations like yours and will be able to help. Be sure to make calls on next steps with professionals with your parents’ involvement and approval, and take your time when deciding.

10. Revisit the Conversation at a Later Date

A discussion like this is best handled with sensitivity. If emotions rise or if you simply need a break, it’s best to table the topic for later, when everyone is calm and prepared. You can always revisit your conversation, and it will likely take multiple rounds to plan your next steps. Discussions around specific financial and caregiving options can wait for a later discussion—this initial conversation is just bringing up potential routes for the future. Most importantly, make sure your parents leave the conversation feeling loved, supported and validated. 

We’re proud to help families like yours navigate aging in place with safe bathing solutions. It’s one small step to help ease the transition into a new part of life, and one we’re more than happy to provide. 

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