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It is very difficult for most people when their parents begin to show undeniable signs of aging. For most of your life, you probably thought of your parents as strong and in charge. But increasingly, you see signs that trouble you.
Maybe your mom can't seem to shake a cold, and you are worried about pneumonia. Maybe your dad seems more forgetful. Maybe they don't seem quite able to handle their day-to-day chores anymore. It’s nothing major – just a nagging feeling you have that things are changing.
Now is the time to start dealing with your concerns. Experts agree that the time to talk to your parents about issues related to aging is before those issues become significant. Don't feel that you have to cover everything in your initial conversation. Let it become an ongoing dialog, so that both you and your parents have time to explore various ideas and options. But get started.
When you are ready to open the subject, choose your time and your approach carefully. It may help to plan what you want to say. At the very least, make a mental note of important points you want to cover. Choose a time with few distractions, when all of you are relaxed.
Use an approach that works for you and your relationship. You may be able to be fairly blunt: "Mom, this house is too much work for you. Why don’t you get some help or sell it?" It may work better for you to take a less direct approach: "Mom, Mrs. Johnson down the street is selling her big old house and moving into a condo. Did you ever think about doing that?"
If you have siblings, you may want to involve them in the discussion or check with them beforehand to see if they have similar concerns. It can help to present a united front, but don't make your parents feel like the kids are ganging up on them.
Be respectful of your parents' feelings. People usually want to remain self-sufficient for as long as possible. Perhaps it takes them a long time to perform household chores, for example. But that doesn’t mean they need, or want, a caregiver. On the other hand, if you have real concerns about their safety or the safety of others, you need to be more insistent.
Be respectful of your feelings, too. Few relationships are as complex as the parent-child relationship, and most people have a hard time coping with the decline of their parents' physical and mental abilities. Watching your parents age can make you very aware of mortality – theirs and your own. Talk to someone you love about what you are feeling.
Avoid making specific promises about the future. For example, don't promise that you will never put your parents in a nursing home. You don't know what might happen in the future, and you don't want to have to break that promise. Instead, reassure them that, no matter what happens, you will not abandon them and you will always love them, just as they have always loved you.