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13 Ways To Talk With Your Parents About Aging

When it’s time to take care of the people who took care of you.

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1. Start early.

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It's best to start this conversation early. If you wait longer than necessary, it's possible that your parent or loved one may hurt themselves or get sick, and that could lead you to "force a hasty decision" that leaves you feeling helpless and unprepared.

2. Do some research.

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"Helpless and unprepared" is not how you want to feel in this situation. The best way to make a potentially uncomfortable situation a more comfortable one is to be knowledgeable.

3. Start small.

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This is a big talk to have, one that's nuanced and could grow complicated. Though you want to discuss this sooner rather than later, it's best not to lead off with an ultimatum or any kind of grand statement about end-of-life care. Start with a nudge.

4. If you have siblings, speak with them.

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Your parents' well-being doesn't just affect them...or you, for that matter. Talk with your siblings. Share your concerns with them, and be receptive to theirs. AARP has a helpful list of questions to ask, such as "What are you prepared to do and not do?"

5. Ask for help when needed.

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If you and your family disagree, consider involving an outside source. An adviser can act as a mediator, sharing various options and plans with everyone, hearing out all sides, and diffusing tension should it arise. Consider another relative, close family friend, religious figure, or even a social worker.

6. Try to let the conversation happen naturally.

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I.e., look for an easy ~segue~. Asking your parent if they have an advanced-care plan apropos of nothing could catch them off guard, and they may react defensively. The holidays can be a good time to initiate this talk — when families are likely to be together, feeling open and warm. Alternatively, if you notice a sign of aging in action, that could be a natural opportunity to gently broach the subject.

7. Be kind, gentle, and empathetic

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You know the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated. Coming to terms with your own mortality isn't the easiest existential crisis, err, moment of one's life. Know that your parents have almost certainly given this some thought; they just may not be super excited to discuss it. Be understanding and patient.

8. Be honest.

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Think about it: It can be frustrating when someone beats around the bush or approaches conflict indirectly. When discussing long-term care with your parents, it's best to be direct. Don't be condescending, and try to keep them involved when making decisions.

9. And access the situation honestly.

Via acidcow.com

It's also important to be honest with yourself. If you're considering taking on the role of caregiver, ask yourself realistically if you have the means to do so. If the answer is no, try not to feel guilty.

10. Be prepared to discuss finances.

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Yours. Theirs. Your siblings'. This is likely to be one of the trickier parts of the conversation. Money is weird! And advanced-care planning can be expensive (though it isn't always). Regardless of your financial situation, what you can do is continue to be honest and direct, and do your research.

11. If you plan to assume some or all caregiving responsibilities, consider training.

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People may not often consider undergoing caregiver coaching, and if they do, they may not want to give the time or money. But as Dr. Leslie Kernisan tells A Place for Mom, "the information is underestimated and can greatly improve the situation." If you're going to dedicate yourself to taking care of your parent, know that there are outside resources available to help you.

12. Refer to yourself, but don’t make this about you.

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Don’t lead the conversation with why this is important to you or your life, but do refer to your own future plans. Remind your parents that you’re going to have to think of your own senior plans one day. Doing so is a good method for putting the conversation into perspective for them.

13. And finally, listen to your parents.

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This seems obvious, but do keep it in mind! Consider your parents’ point of view. Having some heart and listening to them — really listening — will go a long way. Talking to them about their health and happiness shows that you care, but don't forget to show them love and empathy.

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