Many people think of the birds and the bees when they hear about “the Talk.” Indeed, this is somewhat a rite of passage in American culture for parents and children. But did you know that there is another “Talk” that is especially important to have later in life? And the roles might even be swapped? The discussion between adult children and their elderly parents regarding end-of-life decisions and desires can be just as difficult to initiate as the birds and bees discussion, but it’s just as important. Let’s take a look at tips to start the conversation, and different considerations that need to be discussed.
Tips to start “the Talk” with elderly parents:
- Realize that discussions about end-of-life decisions can be very uncomfortable, unpleasant, and difficult for both parties to think about. In many cases, grown children aren’t comfortable approaching their parents (to whom they have generally looked for guidance most of their lives) with questions about aging, physical deterioration, and wishes in the event of incapacitation or death.
- Not everything has to get hammered out in one conversation! There is no pressure to have a long, emotionally fraught discussion where all answers are arrived at. Indeed, it’s probably good for expectation management that the discussion is begun and continued over the course of weeks or even months.
- When to start the discussion should depend on many factors: recent diagnoses that could impact future cognitive ability, family members moving out of the area, a death in the family, etc. Weighing all of these (as well as family dynamics) should help inform how and when to begin having “the Talk.”
- Expect that family dynamics - whatever they are - will be magnified. What do we mean by this? If there is arguing among adult siblings generally, you can expect that there will be more strife when elderly care for parents is discussed, especially if there is disagreement about how to approach senior care. Similarly, if the parents in this case have always been comfortable discussing difficult topics with their children, then end-of-life decisions will probably be handled in the same manner.
What to discuss: senior care, end-of-life, and other topics
Here are some of the important considerations to discuss when your family finally sits down for “the Talk”...
- Where to live. If an elderly loved one can no longer live unassisted, there are a lot of options to pursue. This article discusses the costs of different types of senior care, including in home care, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and more.
- Finances. Who is managing these? Should the family meet with a financial planner? What kind of care is needed versus affordable? Is a power of attorney appropriate? This is just a sampling of questions that should come up over the course of a few discussions.
- Health Issues. DON’T WAIT FOR A HEALTH CRISIS to have this discussion (which is admittedly a broad one). Health issues can cover a broad range of topics, like senior care, driving ability, do-not-resuscitate plans, and even dating/companionship questions! There is literally no limit to topics, so think about which ones are relevant to your own family situation.
We hope you enjoyed this short primer on how to have “the Talk” with the elderly loved ones in your family. As always, Pennsylvania Agency of Nurses stands ready to help. Our Registered Nurse Geriatric Care Managers can put their considerable experience towards assisting a family with this sensitive topic. Contact us today to see whether we’re a good fit!