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PadreCare: The holidays make difficult conversations with elderly parents a little easier

By Loida Casares



We are in the middle of the holiday season. Thanksgiving is behind us and Christmas and New Year’s will be here soon. Many of you will be gathering with your loved ones this season, either traveling to another city or maybe just right there in your hometown. If you have an aging parent, the holidays may be a great time to discuss their wishes or their next step in life, especially if you have siblings that will be joining you and you’ll have the whole family together.

One conversation that is really difficult to have is whether or not your elderly parent should still drive. He or she may think that they are fine and that they don’t pose any threat to themselves or others, but they may be wrong.

My father had a car accident a few years ago and when the policeman asked him if he had run the light he couldn’t answer the question honestly. He couldn’t remember if he had seen the light green.  That was our first warning sign.

Shortly after that he had car problems and broke down on the way to the airport with my sister. She noticed that he was acting very irrationally. When a police officer stopped to ask if everything was okay, he noticed that my father seemed flustered and my sister mentioned to him that she was worried about him.

This was noted on my father’s record and a few weeks later he received a letter from the Texas Department of Public Safety asking him to go in and take a driving test. At the age of 86, he refused to take the test and instead handed over his driver’s license. It was not the way he had planned to stop driving, and honestly I don’t know if he had really given it much thought before that happened and he was forced to make a decision.

Don’t wait until the situation gets to this point with your parent.

Ride with him or her in the car and have an honest conversation about when they’ll be ready to plan their driving retirement. also talks about how to have the driving conversation with your parent.

If you have other siblings and you’ll be together this holiday take advantage of that. Ask your parents questions about their finances and what they plan to do if they suddenly can’t make decisions to pay their bills and utilities.

If you are all gathering in your parents’ home where you all grew up, this could also be a good conversation about down-sizing or moving into a senior living home.
This can also be a good time to talk about funeral arrangements, especially if they are telling you about friends who have passed away recently and about that friend’s funeral. You can take advantage of the topic by asking him or her what they would like and if they’ve made financial arrangements or pre-planned.

A Place for Mom also has a great list of conversations you should have with your parents this holiday season.

The holidays should be a joyous time so approach these conversations in a loving way. Make your parents feel like you want to know these things because you want for them to be happy and safe. If they aren’t willing to discuss things, and you think it will ruin the holiday, don’t insist and come back to it before you go home or at a later time.

It’s never easy to talk about the future with an aging parent but it’s easier to have those conversations when family is together.

Loida Casares is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston with a BA in Journalism and an MA in Communication. She works in advertising by day and is a writer and blogger at night. She has been blogging at for ten years. Loida also blogged for, a national magazine for many years. She has read with Nuestra Palabra, Latinos Having Their Say several times and has appeared on their radio program on KTRU, Radio Pacifica.

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