How To Start The Conversation

Families often put off the important conversations with their loved one until an emergency or major health issue happens and it’s too late.

Here are some thoughts on talking to family about senior care, and for more information, contact us to pick up a copy of the Council on Aging booklet “How to Start the Conversation.”

  • Plan ahead and think through the conversation. Make notes on the important issues you want to discuss. Choose a time and place that makes everyone comfortable.
  • Think of the discussion as one of an ongoing series of conversations and address one issue at a time rather than trying to resolve everything at once.
  • Begin early while your parents can still participate and share their preferences. Make sure they understand that you want to help.
  • Include other family members in the discussion, if appropriate. (Make sure you have met in advance with other family members so you are in agreement on major issues.)
  • Make sure you have eye contact and are close enough to be heard well. Control your emotions and don’t get angry.
  • Think of a medical emergency or experience of a friend or relative that might help start the conversation.
  • Talk about difficulties with activities of daily living such as bathing, driving or managing finances.
  • Offer options for meeting current and future needs. To allow your parents to participate in the discussion, offer options for future care and ask which choice they might prefer.
  • Keep the conversation simple. Don’t solve every issue at one time.
  • Explain to them that you want to help them write down their preferences to assure they are followed.
  • Provide information on options of care.
  • Listen and respect their desire and need to maintain control over their lives.
  • Involve third parties if your parents are not open to the discussion. They may be open to another respected advisor.
  • Ask about important documents. Find out where wills, trust documents, banking and investment records, insurance and living wills are located. Discuss power of attorney.  Tell your parents you want to be prepared to help them when needed.
  • Plan a next step. A next step might be a physician appointment for a physical assessment, making a list of potential senior housing communities, or acquiring information about potential caregivers. A next step keeps the conversation going and provides additional information for consideration.

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