Talking to your parents about aged care
With many families spread far and wide geographically, the occasional catch up such as Christmas or Easter may be the first time adult children have seen their parents in a while.
Although these are exciting times, it can also be confronting to notice a change in your parents. Perhaps you noticed that their mail and bills are piling up, or the house is becoming cluttered and unkept. Did you notice food in the fridge that was uneaten or off, or scorching on the bottom of pots and pans? These are all signs of aging that are often undetectable over the phone. Further care may not be needed right away, but it’s never too early to start the conversation about aged care.
Helping your parents plan for aged care now will give them more options when the time comes. It provides an opportunity to evaluate their options and find the best solution to cater for their needs and wants. It also alleviates the financial and emotional pressure from you and doesn’t leave you guessing what mum or dad would want.
People are often nervous to start the conversation, but it’s important to encourage your parents to make their own decisions and be in control of their future. Here are some ways to ease into the conversation:
Lighten the mood Don’t make it a formal discussion. Make a cup of tea and go to a space with minimal distractions that both you and your parents feel relaxed and comfortable in.
Use a news item or family / friend’s experience Talk about the elderly lady on the news or Uncle Jack’s experience of transitioning into aged care as a way to spark the conversation. Explain how this experience made you realise the importance of planning early for not only your parent’s sake, but also for your own peace of mind. Parents are naturally protective of their children’s emotions, no matter their age, so they won’t want you worrying over them.
Talk about ‘successful aging’ How do your parents envision getting older? What is their ideal situation? Discuss what this looks like for both the short-term and also the long-term in the event of an accident or unexpected illness.
Ensure a two-way conversation It’s not your place to give advice (leave that to us)! Provide options to your parents and ask open-ended questions about what they’d want for their future living arrangements to encourage discussion and participation.
Ask gently and be understanding No one wants to be told they are not coping as well as they thought, so it’s important to make subtle observations in a helpful manner. For example, ‘I’ve noticed the gardening seems to make you more tired these days. Is doing your own gardening something that is important to you?’ or ‘It’s important you can get around when you no longer feel safe driving. Perhaps we can start discussing options now?’
It’s important to remember that the goal of this initial conversation is to spark thinking and let the conversation grow over time – not to reach final decisions. There is a lot of stigma surrounding funding for aged care and there are many other options besides selling the family home to help fund future arrangements. As the Peninsula’s leading aged care financial specialists, we’re here to help you start this important conversation and develop an aged care plan tailored for your parents. Contact us today on (03) 5976 6599 for a free non-obligation consultation.