Tough Topics: Conversations families should have with their aging relatives

Many experts have noted that when you approach the age of 40 and a parent is around the age of 70, it is time to have a “talk” about how the aging process is affecting them and what adjustments they might have to make to their lifestyle. This is often referred to as the 40/70 rule.

These conversations can be difficult both on aging parents who fear losing their independence as well as on adult children who fear the kind of relationship change that their parents’ aging might bring.

The following are some tips to help you approach these tough topics with aging loved ones:

  1. Observe – It is important to spend time with your parents and carefully observe any changes in their behavior which may be related to getting older. Notice whether they seem to have more difficulty seeing, hearing or getting around. Are they forgetting things more easily? Don’t reach any conclusions based on a single incidence but be on the lookout for patterns.
  2. Discuss – Once you’ve had a chance to observe what is going on, discuss the matter with your parents. Ask them if they are aware of the situation. If they are, ask them what they think the best solution would be. If they are not aware of the situation, then give them examples. Have this conversation early – before minor issues turn into a crisis.
  3. Don’t patronize – Remember that your parents are adults. If you speak in baby talk or in a patronizing tone, you’re only going to cause them to get defensive.
  4. Maximize independence – When working toward a solution, always try to allow your loved one to keep as much independence as they can safely have. For example, if they require help bathing and need someone to do light housework for them, they may be able to remain in their own home with some help from an in-home service such as Senior Helpers.
  5. Look at the situation holistically – Try to understand if there are other factors at play. For example, if one parent dies and the other one suddenly seems distracted and forgetful, chances are it is part of the grief process and not necessarily related to an illness. In cases like these, try to make sure your surviving parent gets the social support they need through friends and family.
  6. Ask for help – Helping elderly parents make this new transition in their life can be a difficult process and you shouldn’t have to do it alone. If possible, seek out support from other family members. If this is not an option, there are many community organizations and support groups that may be able to help. Additionally, care agencies such as Senior Helpers can provide your parents with the caring and professional help they require.

Is it time to have the 40/70 talk with your aging parents? It won’t be easy, but if you approach the situation with understanding and compassion, it can save you from a lot of heartache later on. For more information on how home care services from Senior Helpers can help, contact us today.