Starting the Conversation About Senior Care
Help from home care aid makes aging a gift, not a burden
Unfortunately, conversations about preparing for our senior years often do not happen. At least not as soon as they should. Comfort Keepers of Cambridge & Brantford, ON offers suggestions for overcoming discomforts that may prevent adult children and parents from beginning these important discussions on home care aid– whether about long-term senior care and finances, health care, end-of-life decisions, driving, or safety around the house.
When having “The Home Care Aid Conversation” with your parents, it is best to make think through what you are going to say so that the conversation will be as positive and productive as possible. Write down what you think needs to be discussed so you don’t forget anything.
It is also important to not approach this important opportunity as “The Conversation”, but as an ongoing series of conversations. Addressing one issue at a time over a series of conversations is less intimidating for all involved. If you start small, you are more likely to start.
Following are additional tips for starting the discussions:
- Begin early when your parents’ health allows them to fully participate and share their wants, needs and preferences. Waiting until care is needed, may influence your decisions and allow them to be dictated by a life-changing event. When this happens, it may not necessarily reflect your parent’s wishes.
- Choose a time and place that makes everyone comfortable. Avoid special family gatherings, like a birthday or holiday celebration. Choose a time that is not hemmed in by other obligations so you can have a relaxed, unhurried conversation, giving your parent plenty of time to share his or her wishes.
- Include other family members. Make sure to meet before approaching your parent to make sure everyone’s on the same page to avoid an unproductive, confrontational situation.
- Make the experience non-threatening by letting your parent know you’re concerned for his or her well-being and want to know how you can help them. You also can help open the discussion about long-term planning by inquiring whether there are any responsibilities – such as home maintenance, yard work or bill paying—they would like you or someone else to help with to make life easier.
- Use good communication skills. Maintain good eye contact and get close. Closeness builds trust and allows you to speak – and be heard – in an even, controlled voice.
- Share an experience such as your own retirement or estate planning as a way to gracefully transition into a conversation about your parents’ thoughts regarding the future. A friend or relative’s medical emergency or experience with home care aid could also serve as an opening for dialogue.
- Ask about records and documents. Ask your parent where they keep important documents such as insurance policies, wills, trust documents, investment and banking records, tax returns, living wills and durable powers of attorney. This could also serve as a way of finding out what plans he or she have already made and what needs to be done.
- Ask open-ended questions that encourage your parent to share feelings. Then sit back and carefully listen to learn what is important to him or her.
- Offer options, not advice. Pose questions and offer more than one acceptable solution. Ask your parent which choice they prefer. This involves them in the decision process and enables them to exercise control and independence.
- Speak with respect. Make sure your parent is an active participant in the conversation. Stop to listen and respect their desire and need to maintain control over their lives. Avoid reversing roles in the discussion, this could cause your parent to resist your attempts to open discussion.
- Keep it simple. As stated earlier, do not try to resolve everything at once. The goal is to open an ongoing, honest dialogue about your parent’s future, to share information and to understand your parent’s wishes and needs so that decisions can be made.
- Involve third parties if your parent resists your efforts to begin the discussion. He or she may be more open to the guidance of a respected non-family member, such as a doctor, a member of the clergy, a geriatric care manager, representative of an area agency on aging or trusted friends and neighbors who may have already helped a loved one in a similar situation.
Seniors Can Initiate the Conversation, Too
If you are a senior who is looking ahead and wanting to plan for the future, you do not have to wait for your children to bring up the subject. Often adult children don’t like thinking about their parents getting older and are reluctant to initiate the discussion.
- Take the initiative. If you begin having difficulty with activities of daily living, such as bathing, driving, or managing finances, speak with your physician or other healthcare professional. Also bring up the subject with family and ask for their suggestions and assistance.
- Share your preferences with family and friends.
- Learn about available services to help you as you age. Physicians, social workers, geriatric care managers and other healthcare professionals can guide you in this, and your local Area Agency or Council on Aging can provide a listing of home care aid services available in your area.