Want to know what’s going on with your parent’s health and well-being? Unfortunately, our parents may not want to talk about about their health, unless we ask the right way. So, here are some questions to help you get the conversation started:

  • First, if you’re wondering about Mom or Dad’s general health, ask “How have you been sleeping?” Insomnia is one of the first symptoms of many health problems, so asking someone about their sleep could open the door to discussing anything from mild heartburn, to something more serious. And asking about sleep seems less intrusive than saying: “Dad, have you seen your doctor lately?” 

  • Another sneaky way of asking your parents about their health: Invite them on a walk. Even if it’s just a trip around the block, you can learn a lot about someone’s well-being. For example, a limp could be a red flag that they’ve recently fallen, and many studies link falls among the elderly to everything from hearing loss, to a higher risk for stroke. Plus, researchers found that people with a slower walking pace were 1.5 times more likely to develop dementia. There’s also a link between the speed of someone’s walk and their chances of developing heart disease.

  • Next, want to know how happy your parents are? Ask: “Have you checked out any new restaurants lately?” And if so, “Which friends did you go with?” Because research shows that our friends help keep us from feeling isolated, and ward off depression, which explains why the people with the most social interactions tend to live the longest. So, asking someone about their friends is an indirect way of asking “Are you lonely?” or “Are you sad?”

  • Finally, here’s a question you should never ask your parents: “So, have you thought about your funeral?” or “Can I have your coin collection when you’re gone?” Experts say no matter how old we are, no one wants to talk about that stuff until the time’s right. So, let your parents start those conversations, not you.