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Ten Tips for Adult Children

Because dynamics vary from family to family, one size will not fit all. These ten tips should help in opening this dialogue with your parents.

  1. Start Discussions Early
  2. Include Other Family Members
  3. Explain the Purpose of Your Conversation
  4. Understand Your Parents’ Need to Control Their Own Lives
  5. Agree to Disagree
  6. Use Good Communication Skills
  7. Ask About Records and Documentation
  8. Provide Information
  9. Reevaluate if Things Aren’t Working Well
  10. Treat Your Parents With Respect

1. Start Discussions Early

Don’t wait until it’s too late. While your parents are still in good health, use the opportunity to start the conversation. Perhaps an item that appears in a newspaper, or a friend or relative’s illness can be the opening to start the dialogue. Once your parents develop a serious illness or are unable to make decisions for themselves, it is much more difficult to have this kind of conversation. Back to Top

2. Include Other Family Members

You are not in this alone. Bring other family members into the discussions with your parents, but first determine whether they would have different opinions that would undermine what you are trying to accomplish. Get all the issues on the table and gather support from siblings and other relatives. Back to Top

3. Explain the Purpose of Your Conversation

Let your parents know you are concerned about them, and you want to do the right thing for them as they age. This will help them better understand why you are bringing up sensitive issues. Back to Top

4. Understand Your Parents’ Need to Control Their Own Lives

It is important to remember that your parents have a right to make their own decisions. At some point, you may need to balance your parents’ independence with their safety, but try not to take away their sense of control over their own lives. Back to Top

5. Agree to Disagree

Your heart may tell you you’re right, and that you know what needs to be done, but you and your parents may disagree with each other. Don’t try and bully your way through. Their wishes should prevail unless their health or safety is in question. Back to Top

6. Use Good Communication Skills

It will be more effective if you offer options and not advice. Remember to ask for your parents’ ideas. Express your concerns rather than telling them what they should do. Listen and don’t be afraid of silence. Use open-ended questions that foster discussion rather than closed questions that are answered with a “yes” or “no.” Back to Top

7. Ask About Records and Documentation

Know where your parents’ insurance policies, wills, health care proxies, living wills, trust documents, tax returns, and investment and banking records are located. You can start by asking your parent where they keep their papers, and whom you should contact in case they’re in an accident, or are incapacitated. It may be difficult to ask directly about financial and legal matters, and this approach may provide you with an opening to discuss what provisions have been made, and what may need to be done. Back to Top

8. Provide Information

Your parents may not have enough information about the legal and financial options available to them. You can play an important role by serving as a resource to them, and by providing materials for them to read. As they think about the information, it will offer many opportunities to talk with them.

a) Your parents may be eligible for government programs. Check www.benefitscheckup.org for assistance for people over 55. You might find they’re eligible for benefits that will help pay for prescription drugs, health care, utilities, and other essential items or services.

b) Understand that Medicare generally does not cover long-term care, and Medicaid pays long-term care expenses only for low-income individuals.

c) Suggest your parents learn about long-term care insurance options.

d) Identify what community services may be available if your parents were to remain in their home for as long as possible. Some home modifications, such as bathroom rails and entry ramps, may make sense. Back to Top

9. Re-evaluate if Things Aren’t Working Well

If you find that the conversations aren’t going well, try and assess what is going wrong. Perhaps you aren’t coming across the way you thought you were. Or perhaps you just don’t have enough information at hand. You might suggest that your parents talk with a third party – a geriatric care manager, a financial planner, or a lawyer – if you think that they could use some expert assistance. Back to Top

10. Treat Your Parents With Respect

Your parents have lived a long time, and have learned a great deal during their lives. They may have made great sacrifices to give you the life you have. While old age can be a rewarding time, it is also often a time of loss – of loved ones, of health, and of independence. Treat your parents with love and respect, and reassure them that you will be there for them as they age. Back to Top

Reprinted with permission from: “Ten Tips for Talking to Your Aging Parents”, AARP Health Care Options/Met Life Mature Market Institute

MetLife Mature Market Institute
57 Greens Farms Road
Westport, CT 06880
MatureMarketInstitute.com
MatureMarketInstitute@metlife.com
203-221-6580 phone
203-454-5339 fax


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