Difficult Conversations: Talking to a Loved One About Senior Living
Figuring out how to sensitively handle your concerns when a parent is encountering age-related declines is, hands down, one of the greatest challenges you will face as a child. Doing so reverses a long-standing power structure – and it can be uncomfortable. This is especially the case if your parent is having trouble accepting the fact that they need assistance. The important thing to remember: Don’t wait! Difficult conversations don’t get easier by delaying them.
Preparing for the conversation …
Before you begin a conversation, it is important to understand the areas in which your loved one may need assistance. The broad categories include:
Gain an accurate idea of their monthly income and investments. Determine if they have advance directives such as a Living Will. Educate yourself on the resources that exist nearby, so that when you begin the conversation you have concrete options to offer.
Be clear about what you can offer in terms of caregiving should your parent continue to decline or even sustain an injury. Your parents may assume you will take them into your home if the need truly arises. If you are unable to do that, and you know they have the financial resources for an alternative, 1. Don’t feel guilty, and 2. Tell them now that it’s not an option. Most parents don’t want to “be a burden” to their children. Remind them that you are being proactive to ensure a good quality of life, one that doesn’t require you caring for them.
Start with the facts …
Bringing in a third party might be helpful …
You don’t have to approach this alone. Gather a care team together that can include your parents’ physician and lawyer, a pastor, friend or close neighbor. It can be helpful to bring in an outside person who doesn’t have the emotional pitfalls that often come with parent-child relationships. Your parent may feel more comfortable opening up to someone other than you.
In some situations, physicians can be very helpful. If you are noticing memory care or depression issues, it is time to get a physician involved immediately. However, even if that is not the case, taking your parent in for a check-up can lead to some undeniable evidence that assistance is needed. Most individuals trust their doctor. Just be sure to inform the physician prior to the appointment of the issues at hand.
If efforts fail …
Sometimes, the more “pressed” an individual feels, the more resistance occurs. Understand that you are not at fault and try not to feel too guilty if your loved one sustains an injury because of care refusal. You can’t always “save” your parents, but if you are aware of their needs, have educated yourself on resources in the community and continue to have conversations that empower them to make decisions, things should start to fall into place. If they don’t, educate yourself on the process that occurs when a health crisis arises. Ask around regarding local rehabilitation and home care services. Trying to choose a care provider in the midst of a crisis makes a difficult situation much worse. And remember this list:
The Driving Safety Issue
Driving safety is a major issue as people age, and the area where you will almost certainly encounter resistance. Have transportation options and cost on hand when you begin this conversation. If you are concerned about a parent’s driving, contact a local driving safety classes for older adults. They can assess your parent’s driving and place restrictions on the license, if necessary.
This may not seem so bad if the possible alternative is a total loss of driving privileges. And remind your parent that if they have an accident while driving, and an officer is called to the scene, they could have their license revoked on the spot.
If driving safety is at a critical level, you can make an anonymous call to the state Department of Motor Vehicles and they will send someone to the home to assess your parent’s driving.