Long-term care isn’t something that just happens for families or individuals. It requires lots of clear communication and planning up front for people to get the care they need and want when the time comes.
So, how do you talk to your loved ones about how they want to age successfully?
We’ve got some tips on how to start the conversation.
When Should You Initiate the Talk?
There is no magic age for when families need to discuss long-term care preferences and plans, but waiting for a crisis is a bad idea. You want to have a “what if?” conversation, not a “what now?” talk.
Instead, be a detective and look for clues such as:
*A change in their interactions with others like no longer attending church services or other regular social engagements. Does it seem like they are avoiding other people?
*Is there an increased need for help around the house with anything from cooking their own meals to safely getting out of a chair or bed?
*Is there evidence that they are no longer successfully managing their finances?
*Does their home seem unkempt compared to how they have traditionally maintained it?
*Is your loved one forgetting to take medications?
*Have you noticed an increase in injuries around the home, such as falls?
When you observe one or more of these concerns on an on-going basis, it could be time to speak with your loved about making changes to keep them safe and living their life fully.
Preparing for The Talk
Once you have determined that your loved one may be experiencing changes that are not temporary in nature, communicate with them in a loving and productive way. Start with offering to take them to see their doctor to determine if there is an underlying medical issue causing their changes.
Avoid using the word, “help” as much as possible in your communications because it can offend some people and imply weakness that they do not see in themselves.
Practice what you will say ahead of time by writing it in a letter or practicing with a neutral party (such as a friend or co-worker who is not involved in your family’s care decisions). You might also try writing a letter to yourself from their perspective when you have this talk to help you think through both sides.
When you are ready to talk, ask your Mom or Dad for their time in a respectful and not demanding way. For example, you might say, “Can I get your opinion on a couple of things, Mom?” or, “Do you have a few minutes to go over some ideas I have?”
Do a little research ahead of time so that you can have some facts in hand to back up what you are saying and it doesn’t just come across as your opinion of them.
In the Moment
Once the conversation has begun, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind so it all goes smoothly.
This is not an argument to win—for either of you—but an on-going discussion of what’s best for all involved. Use phrases like, “educated decision” and “your personal choices” to convey their role in these choices.
Listen! This is a time for you to hear their fears, wants, and needs, not for you to impose your own. Actively listen to them instead of just hearing until it’s your turn to respond.
It’s not about right or wrong; this is an exchange of ideas and an opportunity to gather options so you will both be prepared.
Once you have had this talk, you’re going to have some action items to follow through on. You might need to schedule your next conversation or gather important documents such as an update will or trust, durable power of attorney, and an advanced directive.
If you discussed insurance specifics and medical matters, this might be the time for your loved one to give their doctor consent to discuss any concerns with you.
If your loved one is sensitive about money, let them know there are resources such as a trust third party like an attorney, financial planner, or geriatric care manager, who can privately make those arrangements without your knowing the personal details.
There might be decisions to made on hiring professional in-home care or making a move so that there can be regular support for bathing, grooming, meal preparation, and running errands.
Remind your loved one that all of these decisions are fluid and can change again as needed. You can let them know that bringing up these issues is meant to benefit them and not leave their future well-being to chance.
Any kind of caregiving is going to require coordinating with other people and entities, such as doctors, therapists, insurance, maybe other family members or non-medical caregivers. This is called coordinated care.
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