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Senior Planning

Start the Conversation

From the AARP FOUNDATION

The reality is that some conversations are just plain difficult — even with the people to whom you feel the closest. When preparing to discuss a difficult topic like senior care needs, it helps to follow the ground rules below to ensure that everyone’s feelings are respected and viewpoints are heard. To help make the conversation as productive and positive as possible:

1. Try not to approach the conversation with preconceived ideas about what your loved ones might say or how they might react. “Dad, I just wanted to have a talk about what you want. Let’s just start with what is important to you.”

2. Approach the conversation with an attitude of listening, not telling. “Dad, have you thought about what you want to do if you needed more help?” — as opposed to “we really need to talk about a plan if you get sick.”

3. Make references to yourself and your own thoughts about what you want for the future. Let them know they are not alone, that everyone will have to make these decisions. “Look, I know this isn’t fun to think about or talk about, but I really want to know what’s important to you. I’m going to do the same thing for myself.”

4. Be very straightforward with the facts. Do not hide negative information, but also be sure to acknowledge and build on family strengths. “As time goes on, it might be difficult to stay in this house because of all the stairs, but you have other options. Let’s talk about what those might be.”

5. Phrase your concerns as questions, letting your loved ones draw conclusions and make the choices. “Mom, do you think you might want a hand with some of the housekeeping or shopping?”

6. Give your loved ones room to get angry or upset, but address these feelings calmly. “I understand all this is really hard to talk about. It is upsetting for me, too. But it’s important for all of us to discuss.”

7. Leave the conversation open. It’s okay to continue the conversation at another time. “Dad, it’s OK if we talk about this more later. I just wanted you to start thinking about how you would handle some of these things.”

8. Make sure everyone is heard — especially those family members who might be afraid to tell you what they think. “Susan, I know this is really hard for you. What do you think about what we are suggesting?”

9. End the conversation on a positive note. “This is a hard conversation for both of us, but I really appreciate you having it.”

10. Plan something relaxing or fun after the conversation to remind everyone why you enjoy being a family. Go out to dinner, attend services together, or watch a favorite TV program.

These are just a few suggestions of things you, your loved ones, and other family members can do to unwind after a difficult conversation.

Senior Planning

Having the Talk

From VISITING ANGELS

Here are sample conversation starters and strategies to introduce home-care services to your loved one. Each scenario is a catalyst to take action and start talking. Prior to talking, prepare and arrange with a reliable friend or your spouse to take part in the plan.

SCENARIO: Your loved one mentions plans to drive to the grocery store. He’s shown signs of unsafe driving (getting lost or confused or unexplained dents on the car). Coordinate with a trusted neighbor, friend, or spouse to serve as a driver for one trip. 

SAY: “I see you’re planning to go to the grocery store.  I think it would be a great idea to ride with [the neighbor/friend/spouse] next time or even hire a professional who can take you where you need to go. You could tell her exactly where you want to go, and she’ll get you there. You’d be in control.”

SCENARIO: You noticed your mom or dad isn’t eating.  

SAY: “I don’t have the time to stay and cook tonight, but [neighbor/friend/spouse] loves to cook, and said she would love to cook with you tomorrow night, and she won’t have to leave early. Then you won’t have to worry about making dinner, and the family will feel good knowing someone’s with you to help you out in the kitchen. You can tell them what you’d like to eat, and you’ll be in total control. Let’s at least try it and talk about it afterward to see if it’s an arrangement you’d like.”

SCENARIO: Your loved one forgets to take her medicine repeatedly. (Alert the doctor first.)

SAY: “I’m worried that you forgot to take your medicine again. I spoke with your doctor, and he’s especially concerned about missing doses. He suggested we find a way prevent it from happening. I thought a professional caregiver would be really helpful. Let’s at least give it a try and see how you like it. Then we can talk about it and see if it’s something you want going forward.”

SCENARIO: Your elderly loved one is struggling to get dressed, whether it’s a fall or a misbuttoned shirt. You’ve realized they need help in the bedroom to get dressed.

SAY: “I’ve noticed you’re wearing the same clothes again. What if we got you a helper for the mornings — someone who can stop by and help get you ready for the day? She could even do a load of laundry or two; that’s completely on your terms. Think of how nice it’ll be knowing there’s one less thing you have to do. Mind if we give this a try?”

SCENARIO: You notice a high pile of dishes in the kitchen sink. 

SAY: “I know you care about keeping your place clean and tidy. But your dishes have piled up again, and the kitchen’s getting dirty. I’ll help you get those done, but what if we explored getting someone in here to keep the dishes done and the place clean? We’d love to take that off your plate, and then everyone can feel good knowing your house is clean and the way you like it. Let’s at least give it a try and go from there.”

Senior Planning

A Challenging First Step

By Joe Gilmore, Landmark Senior Living

Talking about long-term care needs with an elderly parent or other loved one can be a difficult thing. You may not know exactly how to approach it without coming off as rude or disingenuous. However, when it comes to a loved one’s health, it is important to cast aside how you feel to ensure that they can live safely and happily later in life. It is especially important to have this conversation before a problem occurs, not after.

An American Assoc. of Retired Persons survey found that two-thirds of adult children have never had this conversation. This is most likely due to the fact that a lot of adult children don’t know how to engage in this type of talk, or how to begin it. To begin, you have to decide who is going to be there during the talk and what the discussion is going to center around.

Keeping your loved one or parent safe later in their life is a priority, and talking to them about living situations, such as assisted living or even enlisting the help of a caregiver, is the first step. This is especially true if your parent or loved one has experienced a traumatic event in the recent past, such as a fall or the loss of a spouse.

Tips for the Talk

• Decide how you are going to do it and who’s going to be there. Sometimes a one-on-one talk is best; however, if you need someone to back up your points or provide another point of view, it may be a good idea to get other family members involved.

• Go over which talking points you will speak on before approaching your loved one, and set up a time and place to talk.

• Express each idea as an opinion of yours rather than a need for them. For example, choosing phrases like “I think” or “I need” rather than “you should” or “you need” are good ways to avoid conflict.

• Remind your loved one that everyone is there because they care and want to help keep them safe.

• Stay calm. Don’t raise your voice, speak over your loved one, or encourage any hostility during this discussion, as it will only make the situation worse.

• If your loved one immediately dismisses the idea of leaving their home, it may be best to drop the issue for the moment and bring it back up at another time.

The first step in beginning the talk is setting up how you are going to do it and who’s going to be there. Sometimes it is best for the talk to be a one-on-one; however, if you need someone to back up your points or provide another point of view, it may be a good idea to get other family members or loved ones involved. Every family is different, and it may be a good idea to disregard some family members when deciding who is invited to speak.

It is best to go over which talking points that you will speak on before approaching your parent or loved one. Meeting beforehand to talk about these things is recommended. Create a plan on how you wish to talk about this.

Understanding Your Loves Ones’ Goals for the Future

Your conversation about the future doesn’t have to focus only on a caregiving plan. You may also consider talking generally with your loved ones about what is important to them as they grow older. This checklist can be used as a starting point to better understand their priorities. Start by asking then to check all those that apply and then spend some time talking about each one in a little more detail:
__ To remain as independent as possible for as long as possible

__ To remain healthy and active

__ To remain in my home as long as possible

__ To focus on a hobby

__ To work for as long as possible

__ To become involved in the community

__ To remain as financially independent as possible

__ To take classes

__ To create a safety net in the event of an emergency or crisis situation

__ To start my own business

__ To buy a second home

__ To move closer to my family

__ To relocate to a smaller home

__ To retire in a different place

__ To travel

__ To be able to help my children and grandchildren

After going over the points you will make, the first thing you’ll want to do is set up a time and place to talk with your parent or loved one. This may require the use of some type of web communications like Skype or just over the phone if someone can’t be there or lives in a different area.

Depending on how you are hoping to help your parent, there are a few ways to go about this. For example, if you are just hoping to enlist the help of a caregiver, or become the caregiver yourself, it will take less convincing than, say, getting them to agree to be admitted to an assisted-living or residential care facility.

When speaking with a parent or a loved one about what you feel they should do, it is best to phrase it in a way that expresses that it is an opinion of yours rather than a need for them. For example, choosing phrases like “I think” or “I need” rather than “you should” or “you need” are good ways to avoid conflict.

Be sure to remind your parent or loved one that everyone is there because they care and want to help keep them safe. It may even be beneficial to bring up times when your parent may have had their health put at risk — maybe a fall or another incident.

This is also true for other major events like the loss of a spouse. There is evidence that the social isolation that stems from living alone and independently can lead to problems like loneliness and depression.

It is also important not to raise your voice or encourage any hostility during this discussion, as it will only make the situation worse. You should also be aware of when your parent is trying to talk. Do not try to speak over them, as it will likely lead to an argument. Keep your cool and remain calm during the discussion, even if others don’t.

Some parents will dismiss the idea of moving to an assisted-living facility immediately or adamantly. If this is the case, it may be best to drop the issue for the moment and bring it back up at another time down the road.

At the end of the meeting, make sure everyone has a clear understanding of the issues, concerns, and considerations presented.

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