Healthy Eighty-Something Parents Don’t Want To Talk About It

Of course the “it” is about moving at some point out of their home.  The adult children want to get a head star at investigation senior living options with their parents before new accommodations are actually needed,  But attempts to get any conversation off the ground about moving quickly falls flat.  Now what?

This is a common query that I get from adult children who are frustrated and stymied in their attempts to be realistic and proactive.  From their side of the aging table this seems so reasonable and collaborative.  “So why don’t they get it?” they ask.  Here’s what I tell them.

They get it but their “it” based on a very different vantage point.  High-functioning, healthy eighty-something adults are enjoying a truly magical window of independence they don’t want to jinx with talk of poor health and loosing their home.   Offers to visit senior living facilities, no matter how well intended, fall flat because, in truth, everyone knows that moving into these facilities represents the beginning of the end, an undeniable point of no return we all dread no matter how practical and necessary it appears to others.

Fair enough.  Take a step back and start your conversations with a smaller, less threatening topic: their current living situation. This will offer some important insights about their aging in place strategy and also serve as an onramp to conversations about the future.  With these delicate but necessary conversations always come down to the art of framing the topic and the patience to plant the seeds for change.  So here’s how that step back conversation might sound like.

Tell your aging parents that you understand how important independence and control are for them and that their current situation is a true blessing for the entire family.  Your goal is help them sustain this “aging in place” success story as long as possible anyway that you can.

A critical part of your efforts to help then sustain the home front is knowing what type of “trade offs” they are open to make in order to stay put.  Remind them that everyone faces the trade off issue when they are older because despite good health gradually or suddenly things changes and adjustments must be made.  So, the question is what trade offs are your aging parent willing to make when this happens?

Is the focus going to be on protecting the home front for as long as possible and staying put? If so, what are they willing to trade to do this?  Will they allow outside help to be brought in if necessary? Will they allow safety modifications to be installed, including a ramp for a wheelchair if necessary?  And are there things they simply won’t allow?

And what about if events sweep them up and make aging in their current home no longer viable, which will force them to change locations.  Have they given any thought as to where they might move?

Tell them that while one can predict or control what’s going to happen going forward, that you, to the best of your ability, will honor their choices and preferences you know about.  It also includes their right to change their mind and pursue different choices.

This approach should be a gently framed in conversations that give aging parents ample space to talk uninterrupted, the option to pause and resume the conversation latter on and time to digest what was said and circle back to you when they are ready.  Remember: there’s no way to force the issue.  Instead, it’s all about declaring your intentions to understand and support their choices while at the same planting seeds that broaden the conversation and offer useful information about the trade offs especially what it will take to implement them.




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