Talking with Mom and Dad Before it’s Necessary

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Talking with Mom and Dad Before it's NecessaryAccording to a 2006 survey of 1,000 people by Home Instead, Inc., an Omaha-based provider of in-home elderly care, as high as 42% of adults between the ages of 45 and 65 say that having ‘the talk’ with their parents is the most difficult discussion of their lives. Deciding when aging parents can no longer live on their own, and what their next step should be is often an agonizing one – for parents and for their adult children.

According to 2008 federal data, however, it is a crucial step because:

  • Approximately 70% of people over 65 are expected to need some long-term care services.
  • More than 40% of people over 65 are expected to spend at least some time in a nursing home (the average is three years).
  • And 20% of people over 65 are expected to need long-term care services for more than five years.

Putting together a planned strategy with your parents can be a great way to start the discussion. It can give Mom and Dad a way to define and explain their goals and needs. The strategic plan can define the factors that determine when it is appropriate to get in-home help or make the move to assisted living.

Timing May Be Crucial

While many seniors do fine at home, others need long-term care facilities or something as simple as a visiting home aid. Either way, it’s important to start such conversations early. The rule of thumb is “the 40-70 rule”, which means if you’re 40 or your parents are 70 then it’s time to start talking.

Concerns about dementia, of course, will put additional pressure on the situation. People with dementia are eventually unable to make decisions in their own best interests. In addition, they may begin to misinterpret what other people are trying to do for them. Seniors with dementia may become paranoid, depressed or so confused as to be incapable of taking care of themselves.

Having the talk with your parents before the danger of dementia is crucial to their safety. Plus, having a strategic plan in place takes some of the pain out of the decision-making process if that time comes.

Considering the Options

While some busy working adult children may feel pressure to push their parents into choosing the most efficient option, taking the time to discuss the options and encouraging their parents to stay independent as long as possible is nearly always the better choice. Not only is this the less costly option, it also keeps the elderly parent in familiar surroundings.

Parents may resist their offspring’s efforts to relocate them for a variety of reasons. It’s important for adult children to recognize that their parents have their own reasons for wanting to stay in their homes. Some parents worry their children and grandchildren will miss the family home. In some cases, they fear their close friends or siblings will be left alone. Spending the time to figure out what those reasons are will help everyone find the right solution, not just the most expedient one.

Not all elderly parents have to move into assisted living immediately either. In some cases, when elderly parents show signs of not taking care of themselves well, they may simply need some in-home help with cleaning the house or keeping up with the bills. When one parent dies, the other may show signs of not caring for themselves well. The surviving spouse may simply need more regular contact with friends and a social support system to stay motivated and engaged.

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