How to Talk with Your Aging Parents So They`ll

How to Talk with Your Aging Parents
So They’ll Listen: 7 Important Tips!
oday many Baby Boomers are struggling to balance raising children, managing work,
supporting a marriage and enjoying a little personal time while addressing the many needs of
their aging parents. As a clinical gerontologist, I often get called in to assist families in crisis.
But that is the worst time to be starting a discussion about your parents’ needs and wishes.
These discussions need to happen before a crisis occurs.
How do you start those vital conversations with your aging parents--about their health, living
situation, driving or planning for emergencies? How do you promote essentially needed change
to reduce the need for crisis management and improve their overall quality of life before an
event occurs?
If you have not been as successful in communicating with your parents as you’d like, try these
1. Start the conversation early. Set the stage in a comfortable and relaxed setting. Keep the
conversation simple. Take baby steps to gain a willing participant in a rational conversation.
Grieving the loss of independence is real and is often accompanied by feelings of denial and
anger. Be patient and forgiving.
2. Ask open-ended questions. Start a dialogue to find out if your parent still has personal
goals on a "bucket list" or unfinished business waiting to be shared to release a deep burden.
Here are some examples:
How do you rate your overall health? Are there any challenges you currently have
that could require additional care needs in the future? Do you trust your medical
team of physicians? Are you willing to receive additional medical intervention to
support your current situation?
Have you considered accepting help if needed in the future? Would you be open to
family members assisting or adding a private caregiver to support in the home?
How do you feel about letting go of your current residence to help simplify and
maintain independence in the home? Are you willing to hear about other living
options available in the community?
What legal documents have been prepared and are you willing to share your plan
with your family for financial and end of life health care decisions? Are you open to
receive support from family or would you prefer a neutral advocate?
3. Listen with empathy. Let your parents express their ideas and desires of how they see
their later years evolving. Don't second guess. Give yourself permission to step out of your
comfort zone... don't have a specific expectation.
4. Arrange a family meeting. Are you alone in supporting your parent's needs? Discuss your
current situation with other family members. Agree to cooperate on supporting your parents
with health care challenges and overall wellbeing. Consider hiring a life transitions counselor to
facilitate conversation on specific goals for your parents or loved one. A professional can offer
communication techniques to assist with a transition.
5. Check community resources. What community resources are available for your parents?
Look at faith-based groups, senior centers, state or county services, or private care management.
We offer a listing of local resources on our website. Go to
6. Reach out and share your situation with others. Remember, you are not expected to
have all the answers. This is a “new journey” for both you and your parents. Many baby boomers
are experiencing similar challenges as they too struggle to keep balance in their lives. As you
share with others, creative ideas and solutions will become more apparent. Work on
implementing one at a time so not to overwhelm or create additional anxiety.
7. Don’t forget self-care. Take time to play and treat yourself with kindness. Your health is
exceedingly important when others depend on you be their “super hero”!
About The Author
Kathy Faenzi has spent her career providing assistance, empathy, and
integrity to aging adults and their loved ones. She is passionate about helping
seniors maintain—and even enhance—their quality of life and overall
happiness. She is also a popular consultant and speaker in the field of aging.
She has a Masters of Arts in Clinical Gerontology from Notre Dame de Namur
University, with an emphasis in Counseling Psychology. She has extensive
experience working with elderly communities, having previously served as
Director of Community Relations at Sunrise Senior Living and as co-facilitator
of Senior Roundtable of San Mateo County.
To schedule a consultation or book a speaking engagement with Kathy Faenzi, please call (650)
401–6350. Email: [email protected]