As your parents get older, you may need to have some difficult conversations with them. While these conversations can be awkward or uncomfortable, they are critical to their health and safety. Here are seven tough questions you should ask your aging parents.
1. Do You Want to Stay in Your Home as Long as Possible?
Eighty-seven percent of seniors say they want to keep living in their own home as they get older. While this is a common preference, don’t assume it’s what your parents want. Some seniors may want to move into a smaller area that’s easy to look after, like a condo. Others may eventually want to move into a retirement community. If they would like to stay at home, you will need to assess what services or modifications it might take to keep them there. You won’t know what your parents’ plans for the future are unless you ask them.
2. Does Your Home Need Any Safety Modifications?
As people get older, reduced balance, eyesight, and other conditions can make their homes less safe. If your aging parents need safety modifications done around their home, they may not want to bring it up. Ask them if there are any parts of their home that you could make more accessible. For example, they may tell you they’d like a grab bar to make getting in and out of the tub easier. They may tell you they’d like a ramp, instead of steps, to get in the front door more easily.
3. Do You Need Help Looking After Yourself?
This is a tough question to ask your aging parents, but it’s an important one. If you’ve noticed that your parents are staying in their pajamas or not brushing their hair, they may need help with daily self-care tasks. Be very gentle when you ask this question. Your parents have been looking after themselves for their whole lives, and may be self-conscious about becoming less independent.
4. Do You Need Help with Household Chores?
Household chores can get harder as you age. Doing laundry, vacuuming, washing dishes, and other tasks all require strength, balance, and flexibility. If your parents’ house is looking not as well kept as before, gently ask if they need help with household chores. You can also ask if they’d like you to do some tidying up when you visit.
5. Are You Willing to Hire Someone to Help Around the House?
If your parents say they need help with self-care tasks or household chores, ask them if they’re willing to hire help. Some seniors don’t want to have strangers in their homes. Others may feel uncomfortable getting help from their children, and would rather use professional home caregivers. You won’t know your parents’ preferences until you ask.
6. Do You Feel Lonely?
Loneliness is a big problem for seniors. Forty-three percent of seniors say they feel lonely regularly. Surprisingly, two-thirds of these lonely seniors are married or living with a partner. Even if your parents have each other, they may feel lonely. This can happen if some of their friends may have moved away or died. People’s social circles can also get smaller after retirement. If your parents say they feel lonely, you may want to consider hiring companion caregivers to spend time with them and getting them back to doing activities they enjoy.
7. Do You Have Trouble Taking Your Medications?
Fifty-five percent of elderly people don’t take their medications as directed. There are many possible reasons for this. Vision problems can make it harder to read the small print on pill bottles. Memory loss can make it harder to keep track of multiple medications and doses. It’s very important that your parents take their prescribed medications. Ask if they’re having any difficulties taking their medications, and offer assistance if they are.