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How to have that hard but necessary talkMore and more adults, especially those between the ages of 40 and 60, are actively dealing with the responsibilities of providing care for older parents.  One of the hardest things to do is to create an open dialogue and honest communication between adult children and parents regarding aging issues.

Many times, we avoid these discussions because it can be hard to face the fact that we are getting older.  Perhaps we fail to recognize our parents could suddenly be faced with a chronic health condition or event and are unable to continue their independent and healthy lifestyles. Unfortunately, some families are faced with a crisis out of the blue and must respond immediately.

  1. First, understand this type of communication is a process, not an event, so be prepared for several meetings and much discussion.  Participants need to realize trust and respect must be given and received by everyone involved to obtain optimum results.  The discussions should also be centered on the senior’s needs and emphasis placed on ways to help maintain an independent and active lifestyle as long as possible.
  2. Second, understand that the senior involved may be hesitant to share private information simply because they have been conditioned to not talk about their business affairs.  Such hesitancy can be also be caused by fear that any information obtained could be used to benefit others instead of being used in the senior’s best interest.
  3. Third, practice love, kindness, compassion and understanding, and always respect the senior’s ideas and opinions.  In other words, involve them in the process.  Remember, it should be all about them.  Respect one another’s opinions, exercise good listening skills and brainstorm together to reach a consensus.  In some cases, families see a need to bring in an expert to advise them on how to proceed.

Generally, it is a good practice to schedule a family meeting with only immediate family members present.  You may want to begin discussing the preference of living arrangements if additional care is required.  Is home care a solution or perhaps a move to a retirement, assisted-living or full-care center?  Another option is to live with family.  Some families share in this arrangement by moving the parent every few months.

The task of caring for a senior adult can be very time-consuming and emotionally draining; some families find that assigning specific responsibilities to participating members is one way to share in the care.  An inspection of the senior adults’ chosen environment is recommended.  Modifications may be required to make the environment safe and secure.

Legal documents should be inspected for accuracy, and a secure location for the documents needs to be arranged.  These documents include wills, titles, life insurance, long-term policies and end of life advance directives. Other items to be discussed and identified include:

  • Distribution of property – charitable and personal
  • Bank accounts – checking, saving, money market
  • Defined pensions and Social Security
  • Stocks, bonds and mutual funds
  • Annuities, IRA accounts and certificates of deposits

Advance directives should include durable power of attorney for health and medial care, a directive to physician, and a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order.  A power of attorney for legal and financial affairs should be resolved and an appointment of a guardian or conservator should be made.  Many adults have funeral policies and a conversation regarding funeral wants and desires should be addressed.  Be sure to designate the responsible financial party, pallbearers and participants.

As you prepare, a good rule to follow is to always treat someone as you would want to be treated if faced with the same situation.  Remember, to love one another and to maintain the ability to laugh are good ways to approach even the most challenging events in our lives.  Start planning now – don’t wait until your need is immediate!