Holiday Visits with Aging Parents
Holiday visits with aging parents can take many forms. We travel across town, across the country or out of the country to come together. Sometimes, aging parents are well enough to visit us; more often, we are seeing them in their daily surroundings.
These visits can be great opportunities to plan together for the future, and to make note of important changes to an aging parent's well-being. In-person visits can also be the best times for a relaxed chat on important subjects ... if conversations are approached with calm, care and respect.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare:
1. What are the topic(s) of concern to you? What would you like the result of a conversation to be? Don't expect that you'll be able to tackle several big topics or come to big decisions quickly. Think of it as a journey, with several small steps and milestones along the way.
2. Begin by talking about something you may have noticed. Gently express concern about something concrete. For example, Mom's weight loss and a look at the contents of the refrigerator can lead to discussing her overall health - or just getting help with cooking meals.
3. Relate an experience someone else has had. Sharing a friend's distressing experience with their parent's estate can help turn the focus to wills, powers of attorney and estate planning. You could say what you are doing as a result, then ask your parents about their situation.
4. Think about the way your family typically talks with each other. If you approach discussion the way you have in the past, you will likely get a similar result.
5. Be aware of established roles and relationships. How will this affect the chances of you really listening to others, or being listened to?
6. Expect to find yourself on an emotional rollercoaster. Seeing changes in an aging parent's situation can be upsetting.
7. Consider getting help with difficult conversations. A trusted family friend, another respected relative, family advisors, or an ElderWise coach can bring a more rational, objective view to an emotional situation.
8. Think of the holiday conversation as a foundation for further discussion and action. The key is to start the process in an unpressured way. Give everyone time to think and reflect on important matters.
Preparation, patience and respect go a long way to insuring your holiday conversations will be pleasant as well as proactive.
Vol. 4, No. 15
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