‘Tis the Season for Family Conversations

Talking about aging with parents during the holidays

During the holidays, it’s common for adult children to notice their parents can’t care for themselves as well as they used to. If that’s the case for you, consider sitting down and discussing the aging process with your parent this holiday season. While it may feel uncomfortable, the holidays are an ideal time for this discussion as everyone will be together in an environment of love and positivity.

Take a Moment to Observe

Before launching into a conversation about aging with your parent, observe their living space and physical health to get a sense of how they’re doing. This is especially important if you live far away or don’t visit in-person often, as it can be hard to assess your parents’ quality of living over phone or video call.

Look for any drastic changes and clues that your parents might not be functioning as well as they used to. Keep your eyes open for signs of forgetfulness, loss of mobility, pain, mood changes or endangerment of themselves or others. Some common indicators that your loved one may need help are:

  • Too little or too much food, especially spoiled food
  • Significant weight gain or loss
  • Moving gingerly
  • Wincing in pain
  • Dirtiness or disorganization of the house
  • Inability to keep up with mail, bills and general finances
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Dents and nicks in the car
  • Tense, alarmed or sad tone of voice

Be Gentle and Honest

Your parent may not be ready to have a full-blown conversation about their health or living arrangements at holiday dinner. Instead, choose a more appropriate time and location to broach the subject. Try starting the conversation when you’re at rest, like when the two of you are shopping, cooking or hanging decorations. Refer to a friend’s story, a news article or a movie about aging to get the conversation rolling if your parent is more private and reserved. If they’re more open, speak about your observations and concerns right from the heart.

Look at It from Their Point-of-View

Seniors want many of the same things they’ve always wanted – independence, community and control over their own life. Understand that whenever you suggest a drastic lifestyle change, like in-home care or moving physical locations, your parent may feel they are losing their ability to choose their way of life. They may even fear their own mortality.

You can mitigate some of these negative feelings by including your parents in every step of the process and truly listening to any concerns they bring up.

Above all, it’s crucial that you do not treat your parent like a child who is incapable of making their own decisions. Infantilizing your parent can have adverse effects on their health in addition to potentially insulting them.

Do Some Research

Your parents may be too overwhelmed by finances, medical issues or memory problems to take the first steps toward improving their quality of life. Doing the background work can facilitate any necessary lifestyle changes and may make your parent more open to seeing your perspective.

For example, if you believe living in a new community would benefit your parent, take time to look up the best retirement communities in your area. Run the numbers and consider touring on your own to get a feel for the place and whether your parent would like it. Then, once you’ve already worked out the finances and established connections at the community, see if your parent would be willing to go on a tour. If you can answer your parent’s pressing questions, they’ll be much more comfortable than if there are too many unknowns.

Don’t Push the Issue

Unless there’s an immediate safety or health concern, aging will be an evolving conversation with your parents. If you bring it up and they shut you down, let it go for the time being. No one wants a happy holiday to be sullied by resentment. Try bringing up the issue with your siblings after the holidays and make an action plan for how to best approach your parent.

If your parents are open to the conversation during the holiday season, avoid sounding accusatory. Don’t say things like, “You should be taking better care of yourself,” or “I can’t believe you’ve let the house get this messy!” They’ll feel like you’re saying their way of living is “wrong” and shut down.

Accept Help from a Third Party

Though you are only trying to help your parent, they may see your advice as a harmful intrusion upon their own independence. Perhaps there is some past tension between the two of you that your parent is upset about, or maybe they have private concerns they don’t feel comfortable sharing, like their financial situation. Either way, your parent might put their foot down and refuse to hear what you have to say.

At this point, you must evaluate whether you simply disagree with your parent’s wishes or whether they are actually a danger to themselves or others. If it’s a matter of opinion, agree to disagree and follow up in a few weeks or months. Encourage your parent to speak to a trusted family friend, doctor, religious leader or some other third party. Sometimes, it’s simply easier to accept advice when it’s not coming from the immediate family. However, if your parent is causing harm, even unintentionally, you’ll need to be strict.

Joining Twin Lakes Community, a Premier Retirement Community in North Carolina

No matter your parent’s needs, Twin Lakes Community is an excellent option for an enriched lifestyle. We have structured ourselves as a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) of the highest quality. Twin Lakes delivers a setting that allows residents to live their life the way they choose, filled with purpose and enjoyment. Twin Lakes is a community where longtime friends are as important as long-term care. Where independence is treasured. And where the transition isn’t about what you give up but what you’ve gained.

Contact us at 336-538-1572 today to get your questions answered or to schedule a tour of our beautiful 210-acre community!