Tough Talks with Aging Loved Ones
Life is full of difficult conversations. When it comes to caring for an aging loved one, there are many discussions that are painful and challenging. Decisions about sensitive subjects like health, housing and finances are hard. Making funeral arrangements and planning a will can be uncomfortable. As tough as these conversations can be, it’s important to talk with your parents and loved ones about what they want. Together, you can make decisions that are well-informed and well-thought-out. Here are some key points to talk about and some tips about how to approach these conversations.
Monitoring the health of an aging loved one is tough. You might start to notice things are just a little off before you realize there’s a significant health issue. Potential health issues include all the physical and mental health problems that come with old age. Early recognition of these problems is crucial because minor health complications quickly escalate in elderly patients. Seniors might hesitate to acknowledge a health problem or avoid seeking care for it. As a caretaker, be an advocate for the seniors’ health. Know what signs to look for when seniors might not be able to care for their health by themselves, and then know how to respond to that.
Making the decision to move your parents into an assisted living facility or a nursing home is never easy. It’s important to keep their ultimate wellbeing in mind. If your aging loved ones are having trouble with daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, and feeding you need to discuss a solution with them. At the end of the day, it’s about quality of life and safety. Think about driving abilities, fall hazards, memory function and other potential risks to a senior living at home alone. A conversation with seniors about their housing situation should include when to move them into a professional care facility and what kind of facility they want to live in. Tour different retirement home options in advance so if and when you need to move your loved one it’s an easier transition.
Money can create divisions between parents, children, and siblings. It’s a touchy subject. When you’re looking at finances for seniors, it’s important to be realistic. Retirement costs are high. Living arrangements, whether that’s home care, assisted living or a nursing home, are a large expense. Healthcare is another huge drain on financial resources. As people age, they will naturally experience a decline in physical health. Providing the best care and being able to pay for medical bills are major concerns, especially if you’re dropped from insurance or don’t have enough coverage. Funeral costs are increasing, and they fall to the family of the deceased unless prior arrangements are made. Sit down together and set a realistic budget for all of these areas and others. Unexpected expenses are sure to come up. It’s important to be financially secure to live comfortably in your old age.
Tips for approaching difficult conversations
As you approach these difficult talks with your parents and aging loved ones, go over what you want to say. Write an outline or a notecard and practice before you start the conversation. It’s also easier if you have these discussions in a comfortable, private setting. You want to have a natural approach to avoid additional stress. Encourage everyone involved to be clear and honest about their wishes, but remember to respect the elderly’s wishes. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a professional help guide these conversations. Doctors, lawyers, personal accountants or other trusted people can add perspective and keep the discussions on track. No matter how the talk goes, reinforce the fact that you are bringing up these hard topics because you care.