It’s never easy to start a conversation with our loved ones about how we plan to handle end-of-life issues. As difficult as these discussions may be, they are far more appropriate and effective when done early. Too many families wait until it’s too late to have these conversations, and everyone starts scrambling, arguing or ignoring what their loved one wants because the pressure is high.
The best approach is to plan senior care conversations early and keep them productive and positive. Write down the things you want to discuss, and leave emotion off the table. No one wants to see their loved one sick or in pain, but if you focus too much on emotion, you won’t be able to make sound decisions. Instead, think about how you and your family would want to deal with the situation if your loved one was in pain.
Once the conversation has been started, you’ll be more comfortable addressing things in the future. You don’t have to keep bringing up senior care, but do discuss senior care options if your loved one’s condition changes.
Here are a few more tips for starting the conversation about senior care.
Start Early – It’s best to include your parent in the conversation so that they can share their wishes. Begin talking about long-term care needs early on so that these preferences are made known to everyone in the family.
Choose a Time and Place – It’s common for families to throw out these conversations at family get-togethers because everyone is in the same place. This is not always the best way to handle these sensitive conversations, however. Instead, pick a time and place where there won’t be distractions, and everyone can come prepared.
Include Key People – Only include those who have a say in what will happen to your loved one. This may include their children, spouse or other close relatives. Not everyone with an opinion needs to be there.
Create a Relaxed Environment – You are concerned about your parent’s well-being, so there is no need for them to feel threatened. Tell them you want to know what their preferences are so that they can be carried out if possible.
Offer Options – Instead of offering advice or forcing your loved one to make certain decisions, offer the various options that are available to them. For instance, when they can’t live alone anymore, they don’t have to be moved to an assisted living facility. In-home help can be a solution.
Involve Third Parties – If you feel that your family could use some outside help, bring in a third party, such as a mediator, financial planner, etc. Your parent or siblings may be more open to listening to them, and the person could keep everyone on track.
As you prepare for and have these discussions, remember that many elderly adults want their independence and may resist discussing these issues with their children. Begin early and take baby steps in talking about various end-of-life issues. One approach that many adult children find helpful is to remind their elderly parent how much better it will make the adult child feel if these end-of-life issues are addressed. Many times an elderly parent will do difficult things if they realize it helps their children.