We don’t want to think about our loved ones growing old. Because of this denial, we put off talking with them and planning for the future. We are unprepared to assume the role of caregiver for our aging loved ones, often leading to decisions made in a crisis rather then by choice.
The Challenge – Families are hesitant to talk about how they will care for their loved ones as they age.
Parents are not always open to discussing financial, legal, and long term-care issues. Children are hesitant to bring these up, anticipating resistance. Parents want a voice in the planning, but without the conversation, the wishes of the parents are not discussed.
The Solution – Begin the conversation. It is never too late.
1. Explore what keeps you and your family from discussing the care of your loved ones as they age. Usually one person will need to begin the discussions. Several areas of concern could include:
o not wanting to face that your loved ones are aging and their needs will change
o fear of what your loved ones reaction will be, expecting resistance.
o each family member wants something different and resolution will be difficult
o what promises am I going to have to make that maybe I can’t keep.
2. Discussions can start at any age. No matter where your family is in the caregiving process, there is always planning to be done.
3. Have these conversations over time. Approach these as an “ongoing series” of discussions. This is a good time to reminisce about the past.
o Keep the conversations in the positive
o Recognize the generational values and ideas and attitudes, especially those of the depression area
o Listen to the personal stories and what they are telling you about themselves.
o Listen to the emotions. What are their joys, sorrows, dreams
4. Ask each loved one what they want for the next part of their life. Ask them to think about this and write down their thoughts
o what dreams, adventures and fun things do they still want to do?
o what concerns may they have as they look ahead to the future?
5. Emphasize your reason for these conversations is to plan for the future
so your loved ones can make decisions about their future and their desires, wishes and goals can be carried out.
Families may have good intentions to have this planning conversation, but it never happens. Jobs, children and other responsibilities sidetrack family members. To help move beyond good intentions to action, begin the conversations. Explore what planning, if any has been done. Set a date and time to actively and intentionally have the planning conversation with parents and other family members.
Carol McGowan RN and Cindy Streekstra RN are Caregiver Coaches and geriatric nurses who share a mission of caring for caregivers as part of a family unit. Their passion for caregivers has led them to create “The Caregiver Cottage”, a virtual place of support where they guide family caregivers through the caregiving experience.