Reluctant to strike up a conversation with your folks about their life and health? That’s understandable – it’s a sensitive subject. But encouraging them to share basic information now can prevent confusion, heartache and possible financial loss.

You can help ensure their wishes are carried out by reviewing financial investments, insurance beneficiaries and final arrangements before they become ill or pass away.

 See to believe

Begin by observing your parents at home. If it’s clear they could use daily assistance, that’s an opportunity to initiate a conversation. Choose a relaxed moment. Be respectful – try to put yourself in their shoes. Pose some general questions in an upbeat, non-accusatory manner. The following are suggestions from Caring.com:

  • “How’s the house? It must be hard to keep this place in good shape.”
  • “What’s your doctor saying these days?”
  • “How’s the car?”

Probe gently

If your parents show signs of interest, ask them for ways you can assist. If they tell you they’re worried about their health or finances, offer to explore the issues with them in more detail. Some topics for that conversation might be:

  • Do you have long-term care insurance?
  • Who is advising you on financial matters?
  • Where do you store your important documents?
  • If you can’t take care of yourself any more, have you thought about where you’d prefer to live?

Proceed with caution

Aging parents may object to these questions. If so, drop the subject. Don’t argue with them and don’t criticize them. Maintaining a sense of dignity is extremely important. By keeping the lines of communication open, you can try again later.

Find help

Here are some resources for aging adults and their caregivers:

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