Step 1 – Prepare to Talk

Our parents need help caring for themselves. Although this seems self-evident, it conjures up deep emotional barriers when we attempt a care discussion with our parents. The simple reason is people want to be in control of their own lives. Freedom is a basic human value, not easily relinquished. After all, our parents were the ones caring for us. It is not easy to turn the table for them so that we care for our parents.

How do we begin the planning process for parental eldercare? Here are ways to begin:.

1.    Gather facts, and enhance knowledge about family resources, community services, family health genetics and nonmedical support. Parents rarely announce that they want to begin planning for their long term care. Communicare (a phrase authored by Joy Loverde in her book, The Complete Eldercare Planner, a suggested resource for you in this effort) is important.

2.     Once facts are known about the cost of care, family medical histories and available public resources, adult children need to find a talking location and time. Formal family appointments are awkward.  Who among us schedules appointments with our siblings? Family gatherings may be the only way to kick things off. Tell siblings there’s a need for a few minutes of time with parents during the scheduled family gathering. Aging parents do not want to be caught off guard. Informal conversations about the relative, or neighbor, who needed care but did not plan ahead may be the icebreaker. Mention how unfortunate the relative or neighbor missed out on proper care, and how their fortunes should have been better if only their families discussed care needs ahead of time.

3.     A successful outcome of initial talks revolves around raising issues as questions:

    1. Phrase concerns as questions (Do you think you might need help with ……?)
    2. Approach any conversation intending to listen more than speak (Use open ended questions-Have you, Mom, thought about how caring for Dad, will require more help? or: What assistance might be required if care was required for you or him? : or Who might provide the required care?)
    3. Have parents list their goals:  Do they want to remain in their home as long as possible?; or Do they need to downsize, engage a reverse mortgage or find a smaller home?; Or do they want to engage in traveling, helping to raise grandchildren or work with special needs children?
    4. End any and all conversations on a positive note; but realize there may be some anger simmering if not expressed. Anger may result from anxiety and feelings of uncertainty.