Since adult children are usually involved in helping their parents make decisions about care needs, we are often asked the question, “How can I talk to Mom about moving out of her home? She will instantly cut me off and refuses to talk about it!” Just as some families have always had open and candid conversations, there are many others that have been more reserved in talking about sensitive subjects. Here are some universal tips that may help ease the conversation with the goal of planning ahead and preventing last minute emergencies.
All of these suggestions are based on asking open-ended questions. It is important to allow the elder to make their own decision, knowing full well that you already think a move is imminent. The bottom line is that when an elder is still cognitive, you cannot make them do anything, even if you are the Durable Power of Attorney. Elders do have rights. It is important to guide the conversation in order to allow healthy decision making on their part. The following questions are based on a relaxed setting where the conversation could be about anything.
Questions to ask:
- Mom, have you thought about where you’d like to be in five years?
- Dad, what are your goals for the next chapter of your life?
- Mom, are there some things you’d like to accomplish in the next few years. Can I help you with any plans?
- Mom, is this house becoming a burden to you? Do you ever think about downsizing to something more manageable?
- Dad, are there times you feel lonely here at home? Would you like to have more company?
- Mom, as you look to the future what things concern you? Do you feel like you have a good plan for the future? Have you written any of those things down?
- Dad, do you notice any decline in your ability to live here at home? Do you have any concerns about cooking, cleaning and doing maintenance?
- Mom, I worry about not knowing what your wishes are. Would you talk to me about what you want in case there is an emergency and you can’t make a decision on your own?
Remember the goal is to start talking about the future. Listening and repeating what you hear them say is important. Do not argue, it will get you nowhere. There are some great resources to share with parents that broach this subject. It may be good to invite another trusted friend, physician, or clergy to have this conversation with or without you present. Offer the opportunity to go on a ‘shopping day” to look at retirement communities and have lunch out. Make it fun and nonthreatening. Start this conversation early with the goal of early planning with no emergencies.