Planning for Elder Care: How to Start the Conversation
Seventy-six percent of seniors or those approaching senior status say they want to stay in their homes, in their community, and age-in-place (AARP Community preference research). Many recognize that they will need care and assistance to do so, either now or in the future.
Seventy-two percent of aging parents also say they expect their adult children to play a role in that care.
Only 40% of adult children are aware of their aging parents’ expectations (research conducted by Fidelity Investments, reporting via Kiplinger ).
The percentages are nearly the same regarding financial management and adult child involvement.
Family members also report not knowing how and where to access important financial and family documents.
Well over half of seniors report that they have either not had adequate conversations or have had no conversation with their children on these matters at all.
Clearly, there is a gap in communication and a gap in expectations.
Why the Gap?
It’s simple. People just are not communicating when it comes to elder care arrangements. Kiplinger calls the gap in communication between adult children and their aging parents “stunning”.
To be sure, it’s time for aging parents and their adult children to start the conversation about home care and senior living. That, however, is easier said than done. So how can you start that conversation? How can we, as adult children and potential managers and caregivers, broach that topic? What are the questions we need to ask—and have answered?
Here are some suggestions to help you get started:
- “How are you…?”
Ask your loved one how they think they are doing with certain aspects of care, well-being, and home and financial management. For example, you might ask, “How do you think you’re doing with bill-paying?”
- “What would help…?”
Talk about what changes or supports can help your loved one achieve their goals. Think cause and effect—if X, then Y. For example, “How would it help if a home health aide or caregiver were to come in a few times a week?” “Would having more help for cooking or cleaning make it easier to stay here at home?” “How would a companion or visitor be helpful? In what way? How much time or assistance do you think would be beneficial?”
- “What is meaningful to you…?”
Leading with questions that help both your loved one and yourself understand their priorities can help direct the conversation and help reveal what types of care, assistance, or services might be needed, in either the near or distant future. These might seem like vague and possibly even obvious questions and answers, but the answers might surprise you and the goals and priorities may not be what you assume them to be. You might consider questions like, “What would it mean for you to be able to stay here at home?” “What would it mean to you if we committed to dinner twice a week?” “What would it mean to you if we considered bringing in outside help, like a cleaner, companion, or hired aide?”
- “Where do you see yourself…?”
Though most seniors say they want to live at home, this is not the case for all people. Some prefer the comfort and memories of their home, while others see a need and/or benefit of a living situation such as an assisted living or senior community. It is obviously important to have an answer to this basic question, or you can’t choose what care, supports, and services your parents might need. Without assumption, ask what your loved one’s vision of long-term living and is, and if there is a care plan in place.
Clearly at some point money and finances must become a part of the conversation. In the beginning, it might be enough just to start the conversation positively and hopefully, gauging the current abilities and needs, setting a goal, and then looking toward working to achieve that goal in future conversations. There are many excellent tools and resources available for talking and planning with the important seniors in your life.
A Good Time to Start Talking
As you prepare to start the conversation, here are a few helpful suggestions and reminders.
Don’t assume that your aging parents, or your adult children, do not want to have the conversation. According to The Conversation Project, 95% of survey respondents said they were willing to talk about end-of-life issues. Many reported that they would be happy for a family member to start that conversation. Sometimes, people just don’t know where to start.
Start talking now, before the onset of potential mental or physical decline. It is not uncommon for people to cover up their declining abilities or insufficiencies. After all, who wants to admit a loss of ability or independence? This leads to a much more complicated situation than what it needed to be, though.
Choose a time and a place for the conversation—time that is dedicated in a place that is appropriate, and that will allow all members to feel secure and free to speak. Keep in mind that the topic is an emotional one that will delve into private matters.
Don’t try to solve all the issues in one day or in one sitting. The idea is to start the conversation. Starting while there is still time to continue, before serious illness, loss of function or capacity, and before the stresses of needing immediate care will leave you time to continue the conversation. The hardest part is getting started. Once you’ve all overcome that hurdle, it will be much easier to continue and find a clear path toward fulfilling your loved one’s wishes.
Don’t feel like you and your loved ones are going it alone. As you talk and plan, reach out to community resources and home care services agencies. You may or may not need those services now, but it will be helpful to know the range of services that are available and the costs of those services. Knowing the answers to some of these questions will help mold a picture of what is and is not a possibility given the resources available to you and your loved one. A quality home care company is a resource and will be happy to provide you with the information you need. Tap into that stream of information and experience.
The staff at Private Home Care Services is happy to provide information to help you facilitate your conversations and decisions for aging in place and senior care. Call or Contact Us to learn more about home care services, costs, and other considerations.