According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, seventy percent of seniors aged 65 and over will need some form of long-term care in their lifetimes. Not only that, but with every year that passes, a senior’s chance of requiring care increases.
Starting a discussion with a family member about elder care, assisted living, or moving to a nursing home can be burdensome. It’s human nature to avert talking about things that make us uncomfortable. This type of conversation can divide siblings and alter family dynamics resulting in important topics going undiscussed. Unfortunately, this can lead to frustrating misunderstandings — particularly when it comes to seniors and fear of aging. If you’re feeling nervous, distressed or guilty bringing up the subject, the following tips can make the conversation a little easier.
* Be prepared. Do your research before the conversation takes place so you can provide thorough information about senior living, assisted living and independent living options. If you bring solid information to the table instead of speculation, everyone will be able to base their decisions on facts. It is best to have an idea of what they can afford in order to be able to provide for their needs and wishes.
* Let everyone have a role. Invite all parties involved to talk openly about options. Make sure your family members feel their concerns are being heard. In some cases, family members will have different beliefs about the level of care needed. In other cases, some may feel resentment or guilt towards themselves or another person in the caregiving team throughout the decisionmaking process. Make sure your loved one is also involved in the decision. If they are healthy enough to do so, have them join you in touring senior living communities.
* Talk when you’re at your best. Choose a moment when you and your family are rested and feeling well. Make a conscious effort to speak in a calm, quiet and pleasant tone. This is a conversation, not a lecture, so be sure to be respectful.
* Choose a partner. Consider inviting a trusted outside party to join in the discussion, such as a family physician, clergy member or family friend.
* Listen. Hearing and understanding everyone’s wishes and concerns is essential. Listen to and validate their feelings. The more a person feels they are not being heard, the more frustrated they will get.
* Revisit. Don’t expect to reach a decision instantly. Many people discuss senior living options over the course of several communications, and it’s important to give your family members some time to absorb the information you share. View this “talk” as a process where opinions are considered and nothing must be decided in that moment.
* Don’t judge them. The reality is that you and your parent(s) may not have gotten along in your youth. However, think of how you would want to be treated if you were in their position. Having empathy for the conversation will go a long way. Leave your judgement at the door and go in with an open mind. You should be prepared to accept their choice.