The holiday season is upon us and many adult children are seeing their aging parents for the first time in a while (and for several days in a row). You may think this is the perfect time to discuss concerns about driving, their ability to live alone or overall health issues. But since you also want to have a peaceful relaxing holiday, how do you gently broach conversations without putting them on the defensive? Here are three tips:
- Look for natural openings. When your parent brings up her neighbor had hip replacement surgery or that she visited her friend who recently moved to an assisted living are excellent opportunities. Find out what she liked or didn’t like about the assisted living. Or mention that she’s fortunate that she hasn’t had to have a hip replacement. Mom may be likely to open up about some health issues on her mind after talking about someone else’s.
- Talk to your parent about your will and/or advance directives. If you’ve recently updated your will or advance directives, mention this. If you’ve never prepared a will and are nervous about doing so, share that. Talk about your views and see how Dad responds. This could lead to a meaningful discussion about his end of life wishes.
- Talk about technology. Especially if there are teens or young children present, your parents will likely comment about their use of smart phones, ipads, or fitness wrist bands. This is a great segue to a discussion about how technology is not just for the young—and to mention the wonderful products that may be able to help your parents maintain safety and independence (Philips Lifeline, Lively Safety Watch, Ring.com).
Even if you don’t have a complete conversation about the issues causing you concern, touching briefly on these difficult subjects will set you up for fuller follow up discussions in the weeks after the holiday.