How to Get Aging Parents to Talk About Their Plans

Woman helping her older father in a wheelchair, helping aging parents concept

Talking to aging parents about their plans can be challenging. It's a taboo for many of them because they're afraid of losing control. And this is why many adult children avoid it.

But when an emergency happens, it's the same adult children who deal with it. Many become frustrated, angry, and feel overburdened financially. And it's easy to see why.

According to a recent study by AARP, about a third of American adults say despite struggling to make ends meet, they support their aging parents financially. Experts warn that unless we face our fears and have "the talk" this cycle will continue preventing many adults from thriving financially.

We've devised a few strategies to help. If you feel it's time to have "the talk," here's how to go about it.

Put Yourself In Their Shoes

Let's face it. Getting older isn't fun. Even people who remain healthy as they age say it can be depressing and frightening. So be mindful of your parents' feelings when initiating the conversation.

Many aging parents may not want to accept that they're not as capable as they used to be. The best way to avoid making them feel that way is by being tactful. Make sure your tone is positive and realistic.

Get Your Siblings On Board

Unless you're an only child, you will need your sibling's help when talking with your parents about their plans for the future. So be sure to talk with your siblings before introducing such conversations.

If you've had any problems or misunderstandings with your siblings before, have them resolved before approaching your parents. The last thing you want is to show your parents you can't agree about their lives.

Set Goals For Your Conversation

Chances are your discussion won't be meaningful and productive if you don't know what you want to accomplish. Without a clear road map, you may even upset your parents and prevent them from talking to you again in the future.

To avoid this, set goals for your talk. Write down the big issues to discuss, the information you want to obtain, and important points to put across. If you organize your thoughts, you will keep the conversation brief, and avoid putting your foot in your mouth.

Find The Right Approach

The angle you take when talking to your parents about their plans can have a huge impact on how they will respond. And since you know your parents, take time to find an approach that will work best.

Adult children who emphasized concern and care for their aging parents say they received a more positive response than those who focused on their frailty. You can do the same.

Tell your parents you're preparing for the worst-case scenario. It may help them feel less threatened by the conversation.

Listen To Their Story

Most people underestimate the importance of silence as a communication tool. Most seniors want to be heard. They want their needs and want to be taken care of according to their wishes. So listen to them without interrupting.

If you try to immediately interpret what they're saying, they can easily lose interest. Instead of interpreting on your own, ask for clarifications to make sure you fully understand what they said.

Don't Make Promises You Can't Keep

When talking with aging parents, it can be easy to over-promise. In as much as you know your parents, they too know you well. So don't make promises you can't keep because it can be a real turnoff.

For example, don't say "you can always come live with us," or promise not to put them in a care facility when you know you can't keep them.

Getting aging parents to talk about their plans can be tricky. But if you want to help them age gracefully, you must have "the talk." We hope these tips help you make that dream a reality.


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