Whether you’re gathering at the holidays, just catching up, or regularly spending time together, stigmas about old age can make it difficult to talk about your aging parents with family members and friends. Sometimes you might be looking for advice or support, and in some situations you might just want to keep a family member in the loop about changes in your parent’s life. Here are some tips for talking about it.
Talking With Younger Family Members About Aging
Your children or grandchildren may be young enough that you’re worried about how news about a change in your parent’s health or lifestyle might affect them. The good news is, younger kids are generally resilient and able to adapt to these changes as long as you talk to them. We’ve written before about talking to kids about dementia, and many of these tips apply to other aspects of aging. Communicating with little ones about some of the changes that your parent is experiencing—and including the kids in plans to engage with their elders—is a great way to make this a positive experience.
Talking With Family Friends
An area that can get forgotten is how an aging parent’s relationship with other elders may change. If your parent is moving to an assisted living facility, or even across town to be closer to you, they may have friends in their neighborhood who would like to be updated about these changes. If possible, talk to your parents sooner about friends or acquaintances they might like to keep in touch with.
Consider Options Other than Social Media
Social media can be really handy, but for older generations, it can be difficult to use for meaningful connection. Consider other methods that might be better ways for your elders to stay connected. Even if they have mobility issues that make writing letters difficult, you can act as a scribe for them when filling out greeting cards. If your parents still write Christmas or New Years letters, you may want to keep up the tradition on their behalf or with them.
If you want your parent to receive more mail while in an assisted living facility, you can also enlist your own friends and loved ones to help out: your kids, and even your childhood friends who have fond memories of your parents, may be willing to send greeting cards.
Beware of Cutting Off Contact
As our parents page, our worries about their physical and mental health can weigh heavily, and in some cases, you may feel the need to avoid discussing your parents at all. Unfortunately, this can result in isolation: the longer you avoid discussing it, the harder the subject becomes to broach. If you’re finding it really difficult to bring up the subject of your parents’ aging with friends and family members, consider reaching out to a therapist or counselor who can help you work through the complicated feelings that come with aging, and help you find coping tools that allow both you and your loved ones to maintain healthy relationships with others.