Posted by: Bert Copple | December 5, 2013

Difficult Conversations on Aging

Thanksgiving tableFor most of us, the best thing about the holidays is getting to spend some time with family but it can also be a stressful time, particularly when there are difficult conversations that need to happen.

Aging and end-of-life issues are especially tough table topics but they’re the kind of conversations that are necessary to have among the families of seniors – and it’s better to start sooner, rather than later.

At Home Instead Senior Care serving the Detroit metro, Oakland County, Macomb County, Wayne County, and Southeast Oakland County, we think of this as the 40/70 Rule.  Around the time parents are about 70 (sooner if there are health issues), and children are about 40 it’s time to start talking about things such as driving, housing, medication management, power-of-attorney, senior fraud, final arrangements and other serious questions that everyone faces as they age.

But how to sandwich it in between “Pass the gravy” and “Pumpkin or apple?”? We have some ideas.

  • Take your time if you have it: Sudden catastrophic events aside, most aging issues are processes, they develop over time. By starting these conversations early, you and your senior have the luxury of time to make decisions and adjustments along the way. Knowing that nothing has to be decided right at that very minute will help keep the conversation relaxed.
  • But do get there eventually: Set up a timeline for when these decisions need to be made, depending on their urgency, and communicate that to your senior in a respectful but firm way. For example, instead of saying “You need to assign a power of attorney by the first of the year,” try “Think about it and we will talk again at Christmas. That way, by the first of the year we can start making arrangements.”
  • Make it a dialogue, not a monologue: You probably have a lot you want to say and the temptation is to just try to get it all out, but these decisions are an even bigger deal to your senior.  Whenever possible, try to encourage and use their input
  • Take a continuum approach: You don’t necessarily have to go to the most extreme solution right away. For example, before moving your senior into an assisted living facility, maybe you could try installing some safety equipment in their home and arranging for someone to check in on them or drive them to appointments if you’re not able to do it yourself.

There are lots of great suggestions at http://www.caregiverstress.com/ or you can call Home Instead Senior Care serving the Detroit metro, Oakland County, Macomb County, Wayne County, and Southeast Oakland County at 248-203-2273, visit our website, or Like us on Facebook.

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