Step 1

Begin getting to know who your aging relatives are by understanding how their experiences contributed to their view of life and relationships. Begin with asking questions unrelated to aging but that offer insight into their lives such as:

1. What was school like for you when you were younger?
2. When did you move out of your childhood home? How hard/easy was that transition? What kind of support did you (or did you not) get from your parents?
3. Tell me about your parents. Were you close to them? What kinds of memories do you have of spending time with them?
4. Tell me about your grandparents. Were you close to them? Were your parents close to their parents? Did they see them often?
5. What has it been like to be a parent? What is it like to watch me as an adult? Share something that you have learned from your parents and then ask them if they have learned anything from you.
6. When you were living at home with your parents, did you understand the nature of their responsibilities? Did they discuss work stress? Financial matters? Were they private about their personal lives or their life as a couple? Did they maintain clear boundaries as to “adult” and “child” topics?

Step 2

Introduce questions related to health care and decisions that connect with them as a caregiver, not as the care recipient. This offers insight into their challenges and rewards of assisting an aging relative but does not force them to look directly at their own aging journey.

1. Do you remember if your parents had any health problems? How old were you? Did they share the details? Was it private? How did you react to or feel about this approach?
2. Were your parents ever sick? Did they ever need help? How did you manage?
3. Were your parents ever hospitalized? Moved to institutional care? What happened and how were you implicated?
4. Did they have (leave) financial problems or decisions? How did you manage that?
5. How did you and your siblings cooperate on the behalf of your parents when they needed help?

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Stephanie Erickson

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