Talking about aging and the physical and financial changes it brings can be tough, but it's one of the most important conversations you can have with aging parents. Keep in mind that while many people dread it, that dread is ultimately replaced by peace of mind for everyone involved.
Here are 5 tips for how you can broach the topic in a way that won't upset your parents or put them on the defensive.
- Talk about the experiences of another family member or a friend. Emphasize that you want to discuss the future for your own peace of mind and set the scene by talking about a time when a relative or a friend fell ill and needed some kind of care. Share how the situation made you feel and translate that concern to your parents. Explain how that experience helped you recognize that you need to talk with them, so you know what they want before they end up in the same predicament.
- Springboard the conversation from current events. Perhaps you can find an opening in celebrity news, such as a report that a famous entertainer did not have an estate plan when they passed away. Whatever springboard you choose, explain that the story made you realize that you - and your parents - could find yourselves in a similar scenario without warning. Point out that you should all discuss what you would want if something similar happened to you.
- Gather inspiration from pop culture narratives. A storyline from your parents' favorite movie or TV show might be a helpful lead into the conversation. Or even something as trivial as a TV commercial can be a natural catalyst for a productive discussion.
- Be a guinea pig. Start planning for your own future and share your strategy with your parents. Or suggest you work through the steps of planning for the unknown together, so your parents don't feel singled-out or patronized.
- Let your parents create an opening. Do your parents muse about the future in passing? If so, this can be a natural point of entry for a conversation about the future. Resist the urge to bypass discussions by reassuring them with comments like "You're too young and healthy to think of that!".
However you choose to start the conversations, it's essential you don't put it off. It's never too early to start talking about aging, but there is such a thing as too late. Starting the conversation sooner helps everyone engage in the discussion in a way that is as comfortable and productive as possible.
Most importantly, however you choose to break the ice, remember to take the opportunity to tell your parents how much you care about them.