Planning Ahead for Your Parents’ Future, Part 1

While aging gracefully is a goal most of us share, having frank and honest discussions about aging and how it can change our lifestyle isn’t always easy. It’s even more challenging for children to begin the process of thinking about what their parents might want and need as they move deeper into their retirement years. But these are vitally important decisions that require time, thought, and planning, as they will not just make a deep impact on our parents overall quality of life, but the entire family’s.

This article is the first in a two-part series designed to help adult children be more informed and prepared to be a positive, active part of the retirement living decision-making process with their parents. In this first installment, we’ll talk about ideas to help initiate the discussion if your parents haven’t already, and offer some advice and techniques for keeping things positive, open, and productive.

Start Early

This may be the most important piece of advice we can offer: the best time to start the process of considering retirement living decisions is when you’re not forced to. By starting early, you give yourself and your parents more time to ease into the process without feeling pressured. Starting early also hopefully means you’ll be able to have discussions and consider options without the additional pressures of an acute health challenge or other life event weighing on your minds.

Educate Yourself

There’s simply no substitute for knowledge. Spending time researching retirement living options and the implications of each is the best way to give positive structure and information to what can be an intimidating, complex discussion. Your parents may have gone through a similar process with their own parents decades ago, but things have changed drastically since then. Retirement communities of today are quite different than they were even just 25 years ago. Technology has changed how we stay in touch with friends and family. Everything from our appliance design to transportation options to how we get healthcare itself is changing and will continue to change. Spend time learning about what’s available today. Talk to friends who have gone through this process in the last few years. Read as many articles like this one as you have time to. In the end, you’ll be better equipped to make smart decisions and take advantage of the very best options available today.

Write Down Your Concerns

Being part of the decision-making process with aging parents can be relatively easy or more difficult depending on your family’s own unique situation, but it’s always an emotional process. A great technique to help you organize your thoughts and lead discussions is to write down your concerns. Why is now the right time to begin this conversation? Has an event happened or has something in your parents’ lives changed to make it more relevant? Are you concerned for their safety living in their own home? Their healthcare needs? Their level of social interaction? Whatever it is, organize your thoughts as much as possible and write them down.

You don’t necessarily have to cover each point in order, but having them written will help make sure every aspect of the situation is addressed at some point.

Don’t Rush, This Will Be a Process

If you’ve started the process early and your parents aren’t facing a situation that requires a short-term decision, give the process time and space to progress at a pace your parents feel comfortable with. Remember that they may not be as ready to start this discussion as you are, and they may view some retirement living options based on outdated ideas and data, making them far less appealing than they are today. So it’s usually best not to attempt to reach a conclusion in a discussion or two.

Ask your parents how they feel about the topic. Share with them some of the articles and ideas you’ve been researching. If they’re not having a great day, don’t try to force a discussion that could cause even more stress. Don’t overload your parents with statistics, financial options, and a barrage of other facts and figures early. Ease into this and remember that they may not be as ready to discuss the topic as you are, and that’s OK.

Keep the Process Centered on Them, Not You

While your parents’ retirement living decisions likely will affect your life, they will frame what your parents’ lifestyle is like moving forward. As the discussion progresses, be sure that how you consider options and even how you phrase things keeps the focus on your parents, their needs, their desires, and their options. We all value our independence and autonomy, and no one wants to feel like they’re a burden or a source of worry for their family and friends. So be sure to reinforce that smart retirement planning isn’t just about dealing with challenges, it’s about designing a lifestyle that gives your parents the most freedom, the most security, and the most enjoyable day-to-day lives possible!

Preparedness + Positivity = Productive Decisions

While the topic may feel huge at first, starting early, educating yourself, keeping a positive frame of mind and remaining empathetic to your parents emotional needs throughout will lead to far more productive conversations and decisions. And remember, there’s a world of resources available to help you and your parents make smarter decisions about retirement living, so take advantage of them. In part two of this series, we’ll dive a little deeper into some of the retirement living options you might consider. Until then, the team at Presbyterian Village North is always ready to answer any questions you might have about our vibrant community and the wonderful people who make it so special. For more information, contact us at (214) 355‑9001, or come visit us!