As you and your parents plan for the future, it’s important to understand how they define quality of life.

The ability to enjoy a meal with friends or spend time with loved ones may be factors that contribute to quality of life. For others, it may be the ability to get outside and enjoy nature.

Quality of life is the general wellbeing of an individual—and everyone has her own definition. Engagement, creativity, beliefs, relationship health and physical health are all components of overall quality of life. Understanding your aging parents’ definition can help ensure their wishes for the future are met.

Tips for Starting the Conversation About Senior Living
Elder Care Alliance Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Julie Podewitz, offers tips for starting the conversation with your parents. “It’s important to start having those potentially difficult conversations, so you can make decisions being proactive rather than reactive in an emergency situation. Planning ahead can help your loved ones maintain a great quality of life in regard to mental, emotional and physical well-being,” Podewitz says.

She also cautions against creating a situation where parents feel that you’re pushing an agenda—and using conversation-starters can help. She recommends beginning with a series of simple questions. For example:

  • How do you feel living alone?
  • What challenges are you experiencing?
  • What hobbies and activities contribute to your happiness?

“Talk to them about what they like to do and how they like to spend their day,” Podewitz says. For example, you can ask your parents how they would feel about getting more time to do things they enjoy, such as listening to music, being with friends or working in the garden. This will help them start envisioning their future and identifying those things that contribute to a fulfilled life.

Would Independent Living or Assisted Living Make More Sense?
You can encourage your parents to think about which daily chores they want to continue and which they might like someone else to handle. “For instance, my dad doesn’t want to cook meals and clean,” Podewitz says. If your parent is in a similar situation, she suggests asking simple questions, such as, “If you didn’t have to clean or cook anymore, how would you feel about that?”

If the response is positive, she recommends mentioning the possibility of assisted living, where someone else handles daily responsibilities, freeing up your parents to focus on activities that bring them joy.

“Everyone has to communicate with their loved ones the way they know best,” Podewitz says. But, there are a few universal tips that she suggests using when you start the discussion.

First, bring up the topic gradually, and start with short conversations to allow your loved one to process the information in small portions. Second, realize that discussions about quality of life should be an ongoing, collaborative conversation.

Staying open and remembering to focus on what your parents want will help all of you get ready to embrace the future.