As you were growing up, your parents probably sat you down plenty of times for “a talk.” Is it time to reverse the process?

Discussing important issues with loved ones who are growing older can be a challenge. The generation that are now in their 70's and 80's come from a time when people had to be self-reliant, where they had to fend for themselves. As we at Right at Home say, they are Proud, Private and Particular. Asking for help is something they find extremely difficult to do.

Studies show that few Australians have these important conversations until a major event occurs— a sudden health crisis, the loss of a spouse, or even a holiday visit by children during which it becomes apparent that Mum or Dad is having some issues with the activities of daily living. 

If your parents are ageing now is the time to talk about care and when it would be appropriate. Don't leave it until a crisis arises. Keep the conversation casual, don’t overwhelm Mum and Dad, let them feel your love and concern for them. Remember: helping your parents plan for the future is not only important for their well-being as they age, but will make a difference in your own financial, emotional and physical health as well.

Here are a few subjects for you and your parents to think about and discuss:

  1. Living options—Do your parents want to stay in their own home as long as possible? Are they talking about “downsizing” or moving to a retirement living community? Discuss what they would prefer if they were to experience a decline in health and need greater assistance with the activities of daily living. The choices are in-home care, an independent living community or an assisted living community. Part of this conversation should be the costs associated with selling up and moving into a retirement community.
  2. Home modifications—Is your parents’ home condusive to their changing needs?Things like staircases, steep driveways, heavy gates, different floor levels and large gardens can be a challenge as people age. What repairs and modifications could be made go their house, townhouse or apartment to make it safer and more livable?
  3. A plan to stay physically active—Study after study shows that regular physical activity is the most important contributor to healthy aging. No matter what a person’s condition, exercise is of enormous benefit. Keeping up an exercise regime can be difficult and thought needs to be given to ways of maintaining an active lifestyle.
  4. A goal to remain socially connected—Meaningful social interaction is vital to the physical, emotional and intellectual health of people of every age. For seniors, spending time with family is richly rewarding— but equally important is social contact with friends, community groups, exercise groups and hobby groups. All these contacts add to emotional, intellectual and physical health? 
  5. Transport - Social activities are the first thing to fall by the wayside when a person stops driving. They are suddenly trapped in the home after years of activity. This can have a very detrimental effect on their mental health. Sometimes public transport is poor or inadequate to fill the place of the family car. Family members are not always available to provide transport and taxis can be very expensive. 
  6. Estate planning—Do your parents have an up-to-date will? If their plan is to pass property to family members, have they talked to a financial advisor about the best way to do that?  How can their assets be used to pay for their care in the event of a decline in health or incapacity? Structuring financial affairs to pay for aged care is an important but sometimes complex subject.
  7. Advance healthcare planning—Have your parents completed advance directives for healthcare, including a healthcare power of attorney and living will? Have you discussed with them what their wishes are if they were to be incapacitated and unable to make their own healthcare decisions?
  8. Medicare, Aged Care Benefits, Aged Pensions, Veteran benefits, Retirement Benefits — Are your parents taking advantage of all the benefits available to them? 
  9. Fall prevention—Many seniors are reluctant to discuss this topic, especially if they have already experienced a fall. Fall prevention is an important part of planning for the future? Falls are one of the leading causes of incapacity, importantly, this is one risk factor for incapacity that we can take proactive steps to avoid.
  10. Avoiding crime and fraud—Unfortunately, criminals and con artists often target vulnerable seniors. Scams and unethical sales methods aimed at older people can cause serious financial loss. Seniors who have been victimised are often ashamed to discuss the incident. So bring up the subject and educate yourself and your parents about crooked sweepstakes, identity theft and unscrupulous salespersons.

These topic suggestions are intended to provide a framework for seniors and family members as they talk about and plan for the future. If the “teamwork” approach isn’t working as well as you’d like, consider adding outside members to the team! Your loved one’s GP, a geriatric care manager, financial planner or attorney can all provide valuable help and guidance. At Right at Home, our trained Care Managers can provide useful advice and guidance.

Remember that you share a common goal in this planning process: so that you and your loved ones are able to live life as fully and joyfully as possible. To understand more about the changes that take place through aging, you may view pdf - Aging - What can you expect?

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