The holidays are a great time to gather with loved ones and celebrate! It’s also a time to check in with your senior loved ones about their long-term care. In our experience, 90% of our clients say that they wait too long to start the conversation with their aging loved one and it led to unnecessary stress and crisis management. Oftentimes people would see signs of cognitive or physical decline but didn’t know how to initiate the conversation. We understand, talking about these things can be messy and uncomfortable but the inevitable is that we all age and our needs change as we do. Don’t wait for the situation to become a crisis before discussing the next steps.
Below are five tips to start the conversation with a senior loved one about long term care planning:
- Remember, any conversation is better than no conversation. Seeing loved ones over the holiday season means more time together, so more times to start up a conversation. It will most likely be a discussion that takes place over time, so don’t stress about needing a conclusion or finalized decision. Take a deep breath and try not to anticipate what they’ll say or do, just get the convo started. Don’t add the stress of getting all the family members together or waiting for “the perfect time”…spoiler alert: there won’t be one.
- Don’t wait for a crisis. Ok, again for the folks in the back: DON’T WAIT FOR A CRISIS. Use holiday gatherings as a time to check in about a senior’s health. In our blog last week we discussed six things to look for when visiting a senior loved one’s home that may indicate cognitive or physical damage. If you notice one of these signs, like a disorganized stake of bills, casually find an opening that will be a natural place to start a discussion…” can I help you organize your bills?” “Do you need some stamps to get these paid?” Pay attention now to avoid crisis later.
- Make it a discussion, not an ultimatum. One of the benefits of not waiting until a crisis or being “past the point of no return” is that you can have an open discussion, and not be in a situation where you are offering an ultimatum. Ask for their opinion, fears, and goals for the future. Most importantly, listen and respect your loved one’s point of view. The more they feel a sense of control, the better the conversation will go. That said, share your own genuine opinions, fears, and goals as well. It’s important for everyone to be honest and on the same page.
- Use “what if” language, instead of “you should”.When you communicate your concerns or goals in the frame of “what if”, instead of “you should”, your loved one won’t feel as threatened or like they are being told what to do. It will help them see your heart and true intention which is for them to be safe and happy. “What if” could look like: What if you fell and no one was there to help you?; What if you can no longer care for Dad on your own?; What if you moved into a Senior Community and really liked it?
- Focus on the positives. This transition is full of major changes, and it’s common for that to create a sense of fear for all involved. Anytime we navigate the unknown (in every stage of life), it’s scary, and often times we associate that with negative emotions. We want to reframe that. The reality is, change is going to happen whether we like it or not. The trick, however, is to stay proactive enough that we can help control the direction that change takes us…and the truth is, it can be a very positive thing! Instead of focusing on what is being taken away: freedom, independence, money (because of added costs), let’s talk about what we are gaining: security, health, physical/emotional support, peace of mind, socialization, etc.
All of that being said, we understand that starting and navigating this process is extremely overwhelming. Reach out to us at Sunways. We can be your advocate and sounding board as you have these conversations. Let’s make sure you and your family have the information and resources you need to make the best decisions for everyone involved.