With families gathering together it may be a good time to talk with aging parents about their continuing care. We know it can be a challenging thing to do, but creating a family plan will eliminate hasty decision-making when and if a crisis happens.
Talking with siblings or other family members before talking with aging parents, helps to establish family roles in taking care of them. Who will drive them to doctor appointments? Who will go grocery shopping and run errands for them? Answering questions like these ahead of time can make easier to talk about since these issues already have a solution.
Home Instead uses a '40/70 rule' for successful aging, which suggests children who are around 40 years old talk with parents who are 70 years old. At this age, many parents are still leading an active lifestyle, but may need help in certain areas of daily life, and need to look ahead to the future.
In addition, assess financial statements and insurance records to set a budget for home or community care. Does a power of attorney need to be established? How much money is available for continuing care? Jennie Smith's 'Exit Strategies' is a good worksheet to use to make this task easier.
The goal of talking with aging family members is to eliminate overwhelm if unexpected and quick decisions need to be made. Here are a few ways to approach 'the talk' with aging family members to avoid having stressful discussions in crisis mode.
1) Honesty - It's important to be open and honest with your family member and let them know what you are observing in their behavior. Address concerns and then allow them to agree or disagree.
2) Empathy - Imagine being your aged parent 30 years from now, and how uncomfortable it might be to face the unknown, and lose independence. Be reassuring, and offer solutions that reduce the discomfort.
3) Sympathy - Make sure to let your loved one know that you love them, and that you are here to support them in making these decisions.
4) Level of Support - Establish boundaries around what you are capable of doing based on things going on in your own life. If you are not able to drive them to places, solve this problem by hiring a driver or having family or friends take on this responsibility.
5) Clarify - Talk with your loved one about their desires for the rest of their life. Do they want to be in an active community? Do they want to remain at home? Help them to feel like they are being heard and that you are supporting their decisions.
6) Have a Plan - Most conversations can't be solved in one gathering, but try to establish a few action items. Small tasks like making phone calls to continuing care facilities, hiring home maintenance, or sorting through and organizing paperwork can be assigned with an end date. Plan to gather again and discuss next steps.
Though this conversation may seem difficult to have at first, if your family is able to see it as organizing for the future, and your aging family members will be relieved.