It’s easy to bungle an important conversation with your aging parents. Insensitive approaches to sensitive topics can make them feel uncomfortable and cause conflict between the two of you. Some things may be better left unsaid. Increase your chances of an ongoing positive relationship with your aging parent by being careful about what you say, as well as how you say it. Here are some proceed-with-caution topics of discussion you may need to address with an aging parent.
I’m Taking Your Keys Away
While you might need to have the discussion one day that your parent can no longer drive, announcing it in a punitive, insensitive way will likely cause hurt feelings and resistance. A better option is to ask if you can discuss the issue of driving, and stress that you want to hear your parent’s thoughts on the matter. Come prepared with specific facts about their driving performance (rather than just saying “you’re not a good driver anymore”), and ask them for their opinions, including their comfort level behind the wheel.
Forbes.com recommends starting the conversation about driving in the years when your parent is still in good control, so you can talk about a plan for their driving future.
Who Is Going to Get . . .
Seeing your kids fight over your possessions? Depressing. While some parents take pleasure in giving away their stuff before they depart this world, others find it offensive. If your parent doesn’t bring it up, then let it go.
Have You Planned Your Funeral Yet?
It’s a comfort when a parent takes care of their final wishes so you don’t have to. But if your parent hasn’t done it yet, tread lightly when you bring it up. Instead, tell them about a friend of yours who has a parent who planned their funeral, and what a comfort it was to have all their wishes carried out exactly as they wanted.
I Already Showed You That
Whether it’s technology (like programming the DVD player or figuring out the remote control), banking statements, or just new products you bring into the house, be patient with your parents. While it might be annoying to have to repeat yourself with a parent, chances are you ask the same questions more than once when your kids are showing you something new. Try out different methods (help sheets, mnemonics, etc.) to help them remember how things work.
Are You Okay to Be Left Alone?
If your parent has reached the point where they need around-the-clock care, you’ll need to do more than just ask them their opinions on whether they should be left by themselves. Go with them to checkups and talk with their medical professional, so you can all make a decision about their future as a team.
Don’t You Remember?
Getting annoyed with aging parents because they can’t remember something is clearly not a good way to assess their mental capacity. Besides that, we all forget things from time to time. If your parent is having regular memory lapses, it’s time to seek medical help. Until then, be patient with them.
The best way to make sure you don’t say the wrong thing is to try to see things from your parents’ perspective. Then, be tactful in how you approach delicate subjects with aging parents.