In our experience, 90% of our clients admit that they waited too long to start the long term care planning conversation with their aging loved one and it led to unnecessary stress and crisis management. Usually the #1 reason why those conversations didn’t happen is because the person leading it didn’t know where, or how to start it.
Here are some ideas and things to remember when starting the conversation about long term care planning:
- Remember, any conversation is better than no conversation. Take a deep breath and try not to anticipate what they’ll say or do, just get the convo started. It will most likely be a discussion that takes place over time, so don’t stress about needing a conclusion or finalized decision. 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. Choose a casual, relaxed time when guards are down and emotions aren’t high. Find an opening that will be a natural place to start a discussion. Some ideas: after a recent eye appointment: “Are your eyes still bothering you? Is it affecting your vision or ability to drive?”; “Over time do you see yourself wanting to stay in this house? Do you think the stairs will create a problem?”; “I recently read an article about the importance of organizing important paperwork…one of these weekend would you show me where yours are just in case we need them?”…
- 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 here 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. Let’s 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, piece 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 (www.sunwaysalc.com) so you have an 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.