So often when we start to talk to parents about their future we talk at them, we tell them what needs doing, and how it needs to be done. We often, especially if someone else is in the room, speak as though they are not in the conversation. We speak to them as if in a conversation about their options not as though you are educating them on what needs to be done. The conversation lets them come to their own conclusions, okay with few subtle nudges, but nonetheless ones they feel they have determined on their own.
One of the most difficult things to pull off when talking to an aging parent is not talking to them as if they were our kids. Even children these days do not take kindly to being told anything. I’m sure you are familiar with, “I know, Mom, you don’t have to keep telling me.” The issue is that aging parents may not know. They aren’t looking for solutions to problems they may not have or think they have. That’s the whole point of this conversation, isn’t it? To help them understand what they may not know or be aware of. Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying they are out of touch with the world and don’t see what’s coming. In all probability, they do know and understand that some changes are going to be needed in the future. But just like the rest of us, they feel the future is still a long ways off.
So the job here is to bring their attention to it or possibly just find out what they think the future is going to hold for them and what they think should be done about it. If they have not thought about it, this is your opportunity to help them understand that the sooner they do think about the future and how they want it to be the better for them. And remember it is about their future and what it means for them not you.
As with all conversations at this stage of your parents’ life, they, just like you, don’t want to be told to do or think anything. It is, however, important that you ask them for their thoughts. This is the point at which you can, if need be, bring your concerns into the conversation by telling them how you feel. Let them know that everything is within their control but that by them sharing their plans with you the better prepared you will be to help if needed. The “if needed” is key here because most parents at this point will insist they don’t need any help.