Talking with Aging Parents About Healthcare

It’s a conversation that many people put off, but the fact is that talking with your parents about healthcare before an emergency arises may save a life. While it’s important that you not delay this talk until it’s too late, you may have some questions about where to begin.

What Should You Know about Healthcare?

In short, you should try to know as much about your parents’ healthcare as you do about your own. In an emergency situation, your parents may not have the ability to respond to healthcare workers’ questions. Physicians depend upon this vital information to make timely and accurate decisions regarding care. Without it, mistakes are much more likely to occur.

Have a list and stay up to date on any medications or vitamins that your parents are taking.  Make sure your list includes their medication doses.

  • Keep track of their medical history: major illnesses, issues, surgeries, and complications.
  • Find out of your parents are allergic to anything–pay particular attention to medication allergies as well as the type of allergic reaction.
  • You probably won’t remember all these things offhand, so keep a checklist in someplace safe—maybe even the glove compartment of your car.
  • You should also be prepared to ask about sensitive topics such as care preferences and funeral arrangements.
  • Make plans for treatment and help them implement ways to avoid accidents.
  • Get their opinions about what they would want to happen if they were to be diagnosed with a disease such as cancer.
  • Find out whether your parents are interested in being organ donors and if they have any wishes in regards to gravestones or burial sites.

Time to Ask Questions?

A basic guideline is when you turn 40 or your parents turn 70, whichever comes first. Of course, if your parents are in poor health or have serious medical issues, you should ask sooner, especially if one of your parents or both live alone. Again, the best time to find out about this information is before one of your parents becomes ill. At the time of diagnosis or accident, emotions are often high, which can influence medical decisions and affect the quality of care.

Tips for Starting the Conversation

It can be difficult for parents to talk frankly about their healthcare. Many are uncomfortable with their changing roles: from caretaker to receiver. Because of this, it’s extremely important to reassure your parents that they will not be losing any independence. Help them understand your reasons for asking and what you will do with the information once you have it. Getting this information may require more than one conversation.

[box type=”important”]You should be careful not to come across as an interrogator, but rather as a concerned adult child who wants to help your parents manage their healthcare.[/box]

Teresa Dahl

I'm a stay at home mom with 2 children, and love to garden!

One thought on “Talking with Aging Parents About Healthcare

  • September 30, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Teresa, great points! It can be difficult to talk to our parents about these topics–for obvious reasons! :p


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *