At certain places in our lives, talking about the future can be incredibly exciting. We imagine the adventures we’ll have, the home we’ll live in, the partner we may meet and the kids we might be lucky enough to raise. However, as we get older, thinking about the future can become a little less exciting and a bit more overwhelming for both the individual and their loved ones.
As a loved one or caregiver of an older adult, you may feel many competing emotions when it comes to how to plan for your loved one’s future. Beginning a conversation about their wishes for the future isn’t something most adult children are anxious to do. In fact, it is common for families to put off having these discussions altogether. Many worry that these topics are too sensitive to tackle with their loved one and try to avoid them completely.
Topics like transitioning away from driving, downsizing from a large home, or moving to an assisted living community can be heavy topics that can be difficult for both older adults and their adult children to mention let alone discuss at length. for fear of upsetting the senior.
Anticipating the awkwardness of these talks maybe overwhelming and navigating them may be challenging at first. However, it’s important to remember that as a loved one or caregiver of an older, a solid plan for the future will give both you and your loved one peace of mind and ensure that their needs are met in timely and thoughtful way.
As you consider beginning these conversations or revisiting them with your senior loved one, reference these useful tips for additional guidance and support:
Tips for Tackling Difficult Conversations about your Loved One’s Future
- Follow the 40/70 Rule – Waiting for a crisis like an injury or accident to occur forced seniors and their loved ones to make decisions quickly and without all of the necessary options. In order to plan ahead, expert recommend using what is known as the 40/70 rule. That means you start discussing the future when an adult child turns 40 or parents reach the age of 70. If you are an adult child initiating this conversation, make it clear your goal is to help your senior loved ones live their best retirement. By looking and planning ahead, they’ll be able to relax and enjoy the life they deserve.
- Actively Listening & Mutual Respect – Having these types of conversations come with a lot of emotions on both sides which is why it is important to set the stage for a productive conversation. Establishing ground rules before you get started can be a great way to make the purpose of the conversation clear and effective. One ground rule we recommend is agreeing that you’ll both listen and be respectful of each other’s opinions. Adult children are often surprised to learn how much their loved one’s worries and fears differ from their own. For example, an aging loved one may be concerned about financing assisted living or that they will lose their independence once they relocate. By contrast, an adult child might fear their parent will delay making a change, such as giving up driving, which puts their well-being at risk. It might also be helpful to have a mutual friend or loved one present to help facilitate or support the conversation.
- Be Solutions-Oriented – It is important to remember that not all of these discussions are or need to be deep, dark discussions. By starting the planning process, you can ensure that these conversations are positive, and solution focused. For example, talk about what your parents would like to do if they begin struggling to maintain their house or manage their personal hygiene needs. Do they prefer bringing in around-the-clock home care or do they think it is more cost-effective to move to an assisted living community? Also discuss some “what if” scenarios, such as future concerns about their driving skills or hazards associated with living alone.
- Don’t Forget Next Steps – You and your loved one probably won’t settle everything in one discussion, so it is important to acknowledge that you’ll likely have a series of discussions. This phased approach will help both caregivers and seniors get more comfortable with the topic and you’ll both be able to create a thoughtful and flexible plan that works for your loved one.