Even your Mummy and Daddy may be afraid to have “The Talk”, but it’s best to do so sooner, rather than later. No need to be frightened!
1. Locate all the vital documents. Yes, start “The Talk” by first locating all the vital documents — a will, a health care proxy, a power of attorney, etc. — you would need should a parent or loved one have an emergency. The last thing anyone needs is the frightful feeling of not having a clue where the necessary paperwork is when you need it most. I recommend placing all of these vital documents in one, clearly labeled folder, stored in a convenient, agreed upon location (top desk drawer, nightstand drawer, etc.).
2. Think about what you will say in advance – don’t go in cold! Okay, you know you want to have “The Talk,” but don’t just go in and talk off the top of your head. Think about what you will say. What are your present and future concerns? What steps can be taken to ensure your loved one’s safety and comfort. Also, consider how your parent may react – and how you might respond. Practice with a friend, if you think you need to.
3. Be a good listener! Remember that having “The Talk” means both people get a turn to talk. When it’s your parent’s turn, be sure you really listen to what they’re saying. Do not interrupt them or come in with a “my way or the highway” attitude! Too often we think we know all of the answers and don’t give others a chance to tell us their side of the story. Let your parents tell you what they have been thinking about, where they see themselves in one year, two years or even five years. They may also have been anxious to have “The Talk” with you!
4. Do your homework; come with options, solutions and possibilities. Don’t be afraid to talk about options. What are some alternatives for making your parents safer and more comfortable, today and in the future? Be prepared to discuss these questions: Are they safe and comfortable where they are?
a. Do they need help today? If so, what type of help is needed?
b. Do they see themselves relocating at some point?
c. Where would they like to go?
d. Can you visit places in your area to give your parent a sense of the options, including costs?
e. What is their timeframe?
f. What is their budget?
g. What is the next step?
5. Make a plan. Having “The Talk” is not a one and done exercise. Once you’ve had the initial conversation, make a plan for what comes next. For example, how will laundry be done when mom and dad can no longer safely access the basement laundry room? Perhaps someone could come in to do laundry once a week. Or, perhaps laundry can be sent out to a wash and fold Laundromat (some offer free pick-up and delivery service). Finally, can a family member simply pick-up and do the laundry as part of their normal wash loads? If mom or dad wishes to relocate to a smaller, more comfortable home, perhaps you can schedule some visits. Take a look at the layout of a potential new space and discuss costs and what, if any, amenities are included in that.
Hope these tips help inspire you to have a much-needed chat with your loved ones. Remember, the timing is never ideal, but with a little bit of planning and a loving, straight-forward approach, talking about the future need not be scary.