Ep 47: What's the ideal age to talk with your parents about seniorcare?

podcast Mar 30, 2023
ideal time to discuss aging

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In this episode, I explore the important question of when to broach the topic of end-of-life care with aging parents. Through personal experiences and professional insights, I emphasize the need to initiate these conversations sooner rather than later. By reframing the dialogue and offering practical resources, I aim to empower you to navigate this aspect of caregiving with confidence and compassion. Join me in this insightful exploration of preparing for the future with our loved ones.

Intro by: Wren Robbins, Podcast Strategist and Coach
Grow your podcast with Wren Robbins and get tips on her Don't Wing It podcast



  • Learn the ideal age when you should talk to your parents about senior care. 
  • Learn how to approach having these conversations with your loved ones.
  • Learn why it's important to initiate these conversations early.
  • Get resources that will help you start talking about the future with your older loved ones.


Resources mentioned




Ep-47_Whats-the-ideal-age-to-talk-with-parents-about-seniorcare.mp4: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Ep-47_Whats-the-ideal-age-to-talk-with-parents-about-seniorcare.mp4: this mp4 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Isabel Tom:
Does your loved one already have health conditions? Well, then maybe you should start talking about it earlier. If they are walking around and they are super healthy, super energetic, well, you probably could wait. But the reality is, when someone's aging, that's actually a sign.

Wren Robbins:
My name is Wren Robbins and you are listening to the Value of Wrinkles podcast. Whatever age you're at or consider yourself to be, maybe you're young, youngish, midlife older, or maybe you just call yourself old. You are welcome here. Let's learn how to love the older generation and ourselves more.

Isabel Tom:
Welcome to episode 47 of the Value of Wrinkles podcast. I am glad that you're back today. If this is your first time, welcome. The intro today that you heard was done by Wren Robbins. Wren Robbins used to have this podcast called Friends of a Feather, and I was honored to be on her podcast right after my book came out, The Value of Wrinkles. It was so much fun and she was so personable. Wren has now pivoted to become a podcast coach, and I have definitely used her services and listened to her podcast, the Don't Wing It podcast, to help, you know, sustain and make this podcast better because she has tons of experience. I'm going to put her information in the show notes, but a fun fact about Wren before we begin is that for the past 20 months she has been living, her family and her have been living with her parents while they are building their own home. So she said that she has learned a lot and it's been a gift for them, even just to be the resident IT personnel in their home. So I just want to thank Wren for doing that intro today, and also thank you for your help, because you have really helped me get my podcast to where it is, and I think you guys should all check it out if you are a podcast host and you need some support. Today I want to talk about the ideal age to start talking about end of life issues, to start talking about senior care.

Isabel Tom:
I'm answering this question because I got it as a question from someone who took my Prepare to Care digital course, and I wanted to share their response with you, because I think it probably would be helpful for a lot of you. So when we talk about things that are very abstract or that have not happened before, sometimes it's hard to understand. So just went to a cousin's wedding last week, and so I thought I would use weddings as a way to explain all of the stuff. And when the ideal time to talk to your older loved ones is. Think a better way to phrase it is probably not even putting the word senior care or end of life into that question. Why? Because if you haven't noticed, talking about aging and the end of life is not really a hot topic these days. How about let's just scrap all of the terms that relate to the end of life and getting older? I think it's probably much better and I kind of like the this this question a bit better, because I think it's clearer if we just ask the question, what's the ideal age to start talking about what we should do if crisis occurs, or what is the best time to start talking about what to do if our loved one experiences rapid decline. And I think that we, you know, you really could replace that term of I used crisis in one question, I use rapid decline in another one.

Isabel Tom:
If you go and talk to a hospital and go to their admissions department, I think we could really make this question very real by inserting different reasons why people go to the hospital, different reasons why people are admitted to the hospital. So we could say something like, what is the ideal age to start talking about what we should do if mom falls and breaks a hip? What is the best time? When's the best time to start talking about what to do if dad gets Alzheimer's? What's the ideal age to start talking about what we should do if, I don't know, what we should do if Mom or Dad no longer can drive safely? When should we start talking about insert whatever you want to insert? And I think you could insert a lot of different things. And then that question gets very, very, very, very real. Right? So you might think that this is something that just caregivers or families think about. But guess what? A lot of doctors are actually wondering the same thing. Granted, this is an article for family physicians, I want to tell you that the American Association for Family Physicians, they suggest that and they say in one of their articles that the best time to talk to patients about their advanced directives or their end of life wishes is before the end of life stages or even during routine physical exams.

Isabel Tom:
So not during physical exams where they're sharing a scary diagnosis. They are, it's suggested that the best time to talk about it is before those end of life stages, before somebody gets to the point where they are really near the end of life. You. You're not a family physician, are you? So here's a quick question. Quick answer for you today. And I'm not trying to be smart about it, but there are. The real answer is quite easy. The best time to talk about end of life issues and about what you're going to do in the situation where somebody, your loved one's health declines and goes downhill really rapidly is before the crisis occurs. The best time to talk to somebody about what you're going to do, if their health fails them, is before they have a heart attack, before they develop Alzheimer's and can't have a conversation anymore, before they are at the end stage of a disease where they are so tired and they have no more energy to talk. Do you get the drift of things? Are things starting to unravel and make sense in terms of when you should talk to your loved one? There's not an exact time, but I think the key here is before anything happens. Now, when you first listen to this episode, I know you might have been wondering, why would I even bring the topic of weddings into talking about senior care and caring for our loved ones as they age? Well, weddings aren't usually just about two people.

Isabel Tom:
Marriage might be, but weddings involve the whole family and maybe more. And if you come from a family with expectations or a family that is close knit, or maybe one that has some disjointed relationships and you have been involved in any kind of wedding planning, then you know that it can get a little bit complicated sometimes. Should we just start and talk about the guest list? End of life issues and senior care is just about, if not much more complicated now. It's a lot more serious definitely, than a wedding. And it's not entirely the same, I know, but there are definitely similarities when you, when you look at it, think about planning weddings. I planned mine in a statistics class in grad school. Hey, listen, it was a three hour evening class after I went to work and I cannot sit through lecture. So instead I wrote down all of my ideas and I brainstormed as I listened to the professor. That part, the brainstorming was fun, but if you've planned a wedding, then you know that weddings are not just the wedding. Planning for weddings are not just fun. They can be extremely stressful too. Like you don't, you don't tell the bride that she should consider a V-neck or strapless design for her dress when the wedding is in a month. You don't do that. What makes it not a really good idea? Well, well, it's a last minute decision.

Isabel Tom:
And the closer that you get to the wedding, the more stressed out you're going to make the bride feel. It's really not a great idea when someone is near the end of life, when they're in the hospital, when they are hurt, or in a rehab center, which is usually in the floor or a wing in the nursing home, like let's say they have a hip replacement or some sort of surgery and they need to go get rehab afterwards. A lot of times if the person is older, they're going to go to Short Term Rehab, which is in a nursing home, and that is not usually a great time to talk about things. Um, in fact, it can get really uncomfortable because, well, your loved one is in the thick of things. Maybe you've seen this happen with your grandparents or another older person in your family. When you're in a crisis, everyone involved, they might not be in the best place to talk about things. I talked about, like the discomfort of talking with, um, the person who's actually going through this health issue. But, you know, just thinking about them, they're probably not feeling their best. In fact, they're probably feeling they're at their worst. If it's your parent, imagine if your parent just came back from the hospital, is still in a short term rehab and doing the rehab to try and get better, but they could be feeling pretty cruddy.

Isabel Tom:
Number one, they came out, just came out of the hospital. They still aren't at home, so likely they're not sleeping as well as they typically do. Um, they probably haven't been eating their favorite foods or eating that well, and I'm guessing that usually, and I've heard this from a lot of people when they go to short term rehab or they go to a hospital and have an episode, they just want to get home. They just want to get home and they're not feeling their best. In fact, I've had, um, older people, older friends that I know who they didn't want visitors because they didn't feel at their best. The timing that we often have when we start having discussions, um, with our older loved ones, it's usually really a bad time. So like, let's bring it back to the wedding. If a couple decides to get married in a month, imagine how horrifying it'd be if you had a big family with tons of drama already and really outspoken parents, some interesting personalities in your family and you then have to start to figure out that guest list. Let's say the couple says, who cares what the parents say? We're going to just invite who we want to invite. Fast forward and just imagine the wedding day and what that day will be like for the couple. I'm just imagining some angry parents who when the pastor says, who gives this bride to this man? I'm guessing they're going to say we do not give them and they're just going to put up a fight and just be all grumpy all day.

Isabel Tom:
That is probably why you don't see church weddings planned in a month. You see people elope because they are trying to get away from all of that drama. When it comes to the end of life, you cannot do that. The moral of the story is that the closer that you are to a deadline, the harder it gets to talking about things, the more sensitive it gets, the more nerve wracking it is. The more emotional people are, the less sleep they have, the more interesting family dynamics you'll have, the more fighting that's probably going to ensue, the more drama you should be expecting. And it just is not really good when you leave things to last minute. All that to say, the earlier you talk about it, the better. So is there an ideal age? Well, you'll have to decide that for yourself. But this is not the time to be optimistic about things. This is the time to be realistic about things. Does your loved one already have health conditions? Well, then maybe you should start talking about it earlier. If they are walking around and they are super healthy, super energetic, well, you probably could wait. But the reality is, when someone's aging, that's actually a sign. Aging means we're going to get closer to the end of life.

Isabel Tom:
If you really need an actual age, I'm going to tell you that you should talk to your parents in their late 60s and 70s. Why? The earlier you talk about it, the easier it is, and the more time that you have to have conversations. If they're really sensitive about it, then you don't have to load everything up on them in one conversation, which is what has to happen to a lot of families because they really don't have a choice. They've got to figure out what to do. They're in the hospital and they literally have less than a day. Maybe they have a few hours, maybe they have ten minutes to make a decision that's really going to affect their loved one. So if you look at the average life expectancy in the United States of when people die, it's right now I think it's about at age 78. So if you really need an exact age, then I'm going to tell you late 60s. Now, if you've listened to this whole podcast and you are wondering, yeah, I know that it's important to talk to my parents about end of life care and the future, but, um, they are really resistant to it. And how do I even start that conversation? Like, this is a little there's a bit of tension in the air. I want to share with you a free resource that I'm sharing, and it's actually part of my Prepare to Care digital course, that I'm giving it to you for free.

Isabel Tom:
And all you have to do is go to value of wrinkles.com/talk. As some of you know, I have walked with my grandparents and my dad as they neared the end of life and I took part in caring for them. And so talking about and just providing good care to our families is something really important to me. And that's why I've created my podcast and also created a lot of the resources that I have. I want to ask that if you know anybody whose parents are nearing their late 60s, early 70s or they are already well into their 80s, 90s and hundreds, would you share this episode with your friend today? They can go to valueofwrinkles.com/listen and you can share with them all the episodes. But specifically episode 47. I want to ask for your help in sharing it, because too often people talk with your loved ones about the future and about end of life issues and just decline when it's way too late or when it's really, really a bad time. And that can be not only traumatizing for the older person, but it can also be traumatizing for them. So be a good friend and share with them a resource that could really help them out. That's episode 47. Thanks for listening to this episode this week. Stay tuned for the next episode of The Value of Wrinkles podcast. I can't wait to see you next time. Bye bye!

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