Your Approach Can Lessen Stress

Talking with parents about issues involving their health and finances, their feelings about remaining independent, or their thoughts about their final wishes, can be every bit as difficult as that talk you had years ago about the birds and the bees.

Family conversations on such topics make all generations uncomfortable. Yet, they need to occur and often the sooner they do the better. In fact, these talks should take place when things are going well, before there is a crisis and decisions need to be made hastily. Adult children need to listen uncritically and treat their parents with the respect and dignity they deserve.

A recent AARP study found that most elderly parents actually feel better about having these kinds of discussions as part of their planning for the future. Such discussions, they say, help them live life the way they wish.

Here are suggestions on ways for adult children to handle such conversations:

1.) Approach the subject indirectly. For example, “I know you’re taking lots of pills. How do you keep track of them? Would a pill organizer from the drug store help you?”

2.) Be direct, but non-confrontational. “You know, Mom, I’m worried that you seem to be unsteady on your feet. I’m wondering how we can help protect you from falls.”

3.) Watch for openings. “Dad, you mentioned having problems with your eyesight. Have you seen the eye doctor lately? Does it seem to affect your driving?”

4.) Share your feelings. “You’ve always been so independent, Mom. I imagine it’s hard to ask for help. You know you can always ask us for help if you need to, or we can find someone who can.”