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Column: Making parents part of the aging process now

Discussing aging issues, such as living arrangements, finances, dating, end-of-life decisions and driving, early and often can save families years of heartache, tension and even legal battles. Yet, research indicates that about two-thirds of American families put off these conversations, either because they are uncomfortable with the topics or they just don't know where to start.

Statistics show that 34 percent of adults surveyed are conversation avoiders. That is, they haven't talked about any important end-of-life issues with their parents or children, or they have talked about just one issue.

To help, the local Home Instead Senior Care office is sponsoring the "40-70 Rule" program, which includes an action plan for successful aging and other resources to help ease these conversations between adult children and their parents.

The idea behind the "40-70 Rule" is that by the time adult children are age 40 and their parents are age 70, they should have these critical conversations that will impact the parents' future.

"Unfortunately, it is often not until a crisis happens that families consider these important discussions," says Teresa Steinfatt, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office serving the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula. "Although the prospect of addressing sensitive topics can often be intimidating, it's critical for these conversations to happen before it's too late."

According to recently conducted research, 70 percent of family conversations about aging issues don't occur until they are prompted by a health crisis or other emergency. This can increase the likelihood of family disputes.

Steinfatt says that she hopes this program can change that for area families.

"Quite often, when it comes to certain topics, there is a noticeable gap between the wishes of the senior parents and their children," she says. "We want to help families establish plans in advance so that a parent's expressed wishes are met."

For more information about the "40-70 Rule" program or to obtain a copy of the action plan for successful aging, visit 4070talk.com or call 804-443-4885.

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