As elderly parents age, their (now) adult children often find themselves struggling with bringing up sensitive issues to their parents, such as in-home care services or hiring help.
Adult children want to take care of their aging parents, but it can be increasingly difficult to get them the help they need. Because they are still an adult, they have rights. However, there comes the point and time where you need to have difficult conversations with them about chronic conditions and managing them effectively.
Senior care discussions always come before significant life transitions. Whether it’s the need for ongoing care, taking their driving privileges, relocating them to an assisted care facility, or bringing in family caregivers, it’s not going to be an easy conversation. Successful aging plans require both parents and children to work together, though there will undoubtedly be some disagreements. When dealing with end-of-life issues, you must be sensitive to their needs and try to avoid hurting their feelings. Here are some tips to help you get through these tough conversations.
1. Be Empathetic
Make sure that you base all health and well-being conversations from the heart.
It’s hard to see life through someone else’s eyes but put yourself in your parent’s shoes. Elderly parents may not see the need for caregiving, and they may not feel their health problems require help. Can you imagine having someone come into your home to cook, clean, and do the things that you once enjoyed? Even worse, can you imagine going into nursing or assisted living facility and losing your freedom altogether? Your parents may worry about care insurance and how they will cover such expenses, and they may feel violated having someone come into their home and help.
Make sure to give your parent impute into the situation. Even if they have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, you want to make sure that they know what’s going on to the best of their abilities. You don’t want to take away the only freedom they have left, but you don’t want their mental or physical health to suffer either. Be compassionate and listen to their thoughts and feelings.
2. Give Options – Never Dictate Plans
Communication is a two-way street. You want to offer solutions and not dictate what is going to happen. Of course, physical health and mental issues also play a drastic role in this conversation. Try to ask them open-ended questions rather than ones that push them into a corner with a “yes” or “no.” They may have other ideas and input that you didn’t think of, and they are adults and have some say in their care. Though their quality of life is a big concern, you need to make sure they feel like they play a part in the decision making process.
3. Start Planning Early
Discussing long-term care options is never easy for anyone. Unfortunately, many people put off this crucial conversation because they want to avoid the inevitable. When you are in the middle of a mental health crisis, or there are physical problems that dictate the situation, you are left with few choices. You want to start these discussions early to get their feedback and ensure that their wishes are carried out. Waiting too long leaves people scrambling for quick resolutions that are not favorable for all.
4. Get The Family Involved
In many family situations, one child takes the lead in their parents care.
Whenever possible, try to bring in other siblings and family members into conversations about their health and well-being. Though they may not be able to facilitate things with schedules and distance barriers, their input can be valuable. Being a caregiver is hard and making these decisions can be devastating. Having the support of the family is invaluable. If everyone has a different opinion, try to sort out any significant differences before talking with parents. You want everyone to be on the same page and working towards the best caregiving options possible. Plus, your parents don’t need added stress from bickering family members over their end-of-life issues.
5. Always Remain Respectful
When adult children are dealing with their elderly parent, they need to plan on expecting the unexpected. Your parents can throw temper tantrums and become combative, especially when their freedom is being jeopardized. No matter what they verbally throw at you, try to remain calm and respectful. Many are in denial about their ongoing health problems, and bringing up the need for care insurance and help in daily living may be more than they can handle.
It may be necessary for you to step out of the room or continue the conversation at another time. Family caregivers often feel the brunt of their parents’ anger. Realize that it may seem like they are upset with you, but it’s the situation and these senior care discussions that have them on edge.
6. Realize You May Disagree
Before you have a conversation with your elderly parents about their long-term care, realize that they are unlikely to agree with anything you have to say.
Thee shift in their quality of life may have slowly over many years, and they don’t notice the need for help. You have to remember that mental health can also come into play. Make sure that you agree to disagree. The one who holds the Power of Attorney over them will make the ultimate decision; however, it’s always best if they at least see the need for help. Someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t always have excellent reasoning skills. So remember to do your best and try to get them to understand your position.
7. Re-Evaluate As Necessary
Caring for elderly parents is often a trial and error process. You may try using in-home caregivers for a period and then realize that their needs require round-the-clock nursing provisions. You want your parents to have all the benefits of successful aging, but you must understand that what works today might not work tomorrow. Chronic conditions that they have suffered with for years can become debilitating overnight.
If you find something that works, you can breathe a sigh of relief for the moment. However, things can change overnight. Be flexible and realize that they are getting older and with that comes an uncertain future. Being with them throughout the journey is what they need most. They are scared, tired, and just want their life back. The realization that things will never be the same is devastating for everyone involved.