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Part 4 - Defining the Big Picture

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    In previous weeks of this 5 part blog series we have discussed the careful timing of when to approach this conversation with your loved one, avoiding or handling a defensive dialog, and some practical questions/topics to consider. This week we focus on our ultimate goal with the discussion.

    DEFINING THE BIG PICTURE

    Your ultimate goal is to discover what your loved one absolutely wants and does not want in terms of living arrangements and care. For instance, try to determine:

    What matters most to them about their housing situation.

    Does your loved one want to remain in a home that has become isolated over time as family and friends have moved away? Can they live safely in their current home, even if family and friends live close by? Discuss whether your

    loved one would benefit more from the comfort and familiarity of the home environment, or if they would be more enriched by the social interaction of facility living.

    Practical day-to-day living concerns.

    Does your loved one have any worries about getting in and out of the tub, shower or bed? What about keeping their balance on the stairs? Keeping up with bills? Preparing meals? Arranging and attending appointments? Doing laundry? Understanding and following doctor’s orders? Managing increasingly complex medications? Attending social events? Reassure them that these common issues have easy fixes.

    This may be a good time to bring up the issue of driving safety and alternate forms of transportation. Consider asking their primary care physician to step in as an authority to reinforce the message if your loved one should not be driving. AAA’s portal www.seniordrivers.org offers information on license policies as well as videos and driving tips.

    Health care status.

    Especially if your loved one suffers from any minor or major medical issues, is there a coordinating doctor who manages care? Do they have supplemental insurance? Don’t forget dental information and specialists, as well. Ask them about their fears concerning specific medical issues. For example, many of us worry unnecessarily that our memory is failing if we can’t recall where we put our keys! Discuss permission for you to attend appointments and speak to the doctor— the doctor’s office will need your loved one’s consent.

    Financial resources and plan.

    What kind of resources are available— savings, real estate, vehicles, etc.– and which ones could be used for care if needed? Money can be a touchy subject, of course, especially when your loved one is your parent! Their immediate response might be, “That’s none of your business.” Let them know that you’re not prying; you simply want to abide by their wishes. You can suggest they talk to a trusted third party— attorney, geriatric care manager, or financial planner— and keep all but the basics private.

    Next week we will take a look at some specific ways you can plan for their future care in advance.
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