How to Get Your Parents to Talk and Plan

Many adult children saw their parents last week for Thanksgiving. And many of those adult children had not seen their parents in months or even in almost a year. Work and family obligations paired with substantial distance makes it difficult for all of us to get together as often as we’d like.

Did you see your parents last week? Did you notice anything troubling?

Living far apart and getting together only sporadically can make it easy for us to not see what is happening with our aging parents. The holidays, though, often changes this. Many adult children are faced with the shocking reality of their parents’ situation when they go home to visit them over Thanksgiving.

Our aging parents are trying to manage on their own, but they may need some help.

Many adult children notice that their aging parents are not doing quite as well as they used to. The refrigerator has not been cleaned out recently, the pantry is a little bare, they have lost weight, regular home and car maintenance has been neglected, and they are having memory and mobility issues.  These red flags can be hard to assess through regular phone calls, but a visit home can make them undeniable.  Realizing that our aging parents need some help requires some immediate follow-up action. But what? Where do you even begin? You can start by talking to your parents and reaching out to their community of senior care providers.

Make plans to talk to your aging parents about their issues and your concerns.

The conversations are usually uncomfortable and intimidating, but start asking your parents questions and start expressing your observations and concerns.

            “Mom, I noticed that you’ve lost weight since the last time I saw you. I’m concerned that we need to figure out a new grocery and meal situation. Can you tell me more about how you get groceries and how you make meals every week?”

            “Dad, I saw that the utility bill has not been paid—there was a bill on the table with a ‘Past Due’ stamp on it. Let’s talk about what’s going on. I’d like to help.”

            “I know I can’t come see you every day because we live so far apart. I feel like we need to stay in regular touch, though. What are your thoughts?”

            “I just recently updated my advance directive and power of attorney. It made me think about you and your paperwork. Do you have an advance directive? How about a power of attorney? Have they been updated? May I look at them?”

When talking to your parents, approach them in a way that does not sound like you’re accusing them of failing or that puts them in a defensive stance. Try a calm, curious demeanor that is focused on figuring out where problems may be beginning.

Then make calls to aging professionals in their community. Caring for an aging parent takes a village. From home care agencies to assisted living communities and county aging services, there is a tremendous workforce out there ready to help you and your aging parents.

This time of year, our office receives a sharp increase in calls from concerned family members.

Elder law attorneys play an instrumental role in helping families talk about aging issues and planning for this phase of life. We help our clients ask the essential questions about their health, financial, and care concerns, creating a plan that fits their legal, social, and physical needs.  This is a great time of year to get the conversation started.

Even if you think your parents won’t talk about their aging issues, give it a try.

Many adult children are seen by their parents as still being minors. The aging parent may have issues taking their children’s concerns and direction seriously. This barrier can be overcome by having a third-party bring up the issues and potential solutions. Many adult children are impressed (and relieved) by how their parents comply with the recommendations made by an attorney, doctor, or financial advisor.

If seeing your parents this holiday season has brought up new concerns for you, start asking questions and start reaching out for support. Our phone consultations are always complimentary. Please call us at (404) 843-0121 to get started. You can also reach out to us via our online contact form.

Caring for aging parents can be difficult, but you do not have to do it alone. Let a team of experts help you help your parents.