Tips for Having the Talk
Many conversations throughout life make us uncomfortable. The first time you had to tell your parents you wrecked the car. The talk your parents had with you about puberty. The discussion with your spouse about who would raise your children if you couldn’t. The conversations that trump these in the awkwardness factor all pertain to having to talk about aging and health with your parents.
Some of the topics you will need to address over time include advanced healthcare directives, do not resuscitate orders, finances, stopping driving, bringing in home care or moving to assisted living. These conversations can cause divides in a family leaving mom and dad feeling angry.
In this article, I’m going to share with you some tried and true tips for approaching these sensitive topics that will help each party be heard and leave their dignity intact.
Tip #1: Prepare your parents.
No one likes to be blindsided. Before having a meaningful conversation with your aging parents and family members, let them know why you want to talk, what you want to talk about, and then meet with them at their convenience. When you approach anyone off-guard, you leave them feeling attacked and immediately put them on the defensive.
Tip #2: Be clear in the "why."
These conversations are awkward. And without a clear reason why you want to have them, suspicion and a feeling that there are ulterior motives can develop. Let your folks know why you want to have this conversation. Something I said to my parents was “Mom, dad; I want together to go over what your advanced healthcare directives are. I know that you travel a lot and if something should happen to you, I need to know where to find the paperwork, and who you want making your health care decisions if both of you unable to care for the other.” It might feel like you're nosey, but there’s a definite and honest ‘why’ to the conversation.
Tip #3: Get your siblings on the same page.
Questions about care and finances cause drifts between even the closest of families. Before meeting with your parents, get the siblings together and let them know why you are going to have this conversation, what their concerns are. Reassure them that all the decisions are your parents and that you know they want their parents’ wishes respected. Once you’re all on the same page, bring in a Certified Senior Advisor to work as an intermediary to make sure everyone hears the same thing when it comes to your parents’ or family member’s wishes.
Tip #4: Repeat for clarification.
Everyone wants to be heard. Everyone wants to know you’ve listened to them. One of the best communication techniques to use is repeating for clarification. For example: “Dad, what I hear you say is that if you do need in-home care that you want a male caregiver, is that correct?” or “Mom, if what I’m hearing is correct, you are stating that you’ve set up a burial trust to cover funeral expenses and have a long-term care insurance policy to pay for assisted living, but in the meantime you have investments, social security and a pension to cover your living expenses?” Then pause and let them confirm.
Tip #5: Respect their wishes.
When it comes to taking care of a loved one, we always think that we know best, but at the end of the day, when it comes to care and finances, that is up to the individual. Your parents are adults, they raised you and did an excellent job of it, and they have the right to live their lives how they see fit. Calmly express your concerns, but if they wish to do something else, you need to respect their wishes.
Tip #6: Avoid bringing up the topic all the time.
We all want best for our loved ones, but if you’ve said your peace or they don’t wish to have the conversation at all, you need to respect that and avoid bringing it up every time you visit together. If you continue to beat the proverbial dead horse, it will make things awkward and limit the time you have together making memories and sharing the love.
Tip #7: Keep the peace.
I know I’ve said this a few times, but these are sensitive subjects that often leave emotional nerves raw. If you are meeting as a family, be that voice of reason. Call for time-outs, keep the volume at a conversational level rather than yelling. These decisions are hard, and your family is far more important than them.
Tip #8: Start the conversations early.
If you are the parent and are age 65 and older, start these conversations with your adult children. Start planning before the crises happen. It will give you the feeling of control over the decisions in your life and reduce the stress your children will go through when they don’t know or understand your wishes.
Tip #9: Contract with a Certified Senior Advisor.
Working with a Certified Senior Advisor can help keep you all on the same page while making sure your loved one's wishes are being heard. In most cases, there is no charge to work with Certified Senior Advisor, but if there is, it’s well worth the investment. They understand the issues and challenges we face as we age.
From understanding, Medicare, Medicaid, Supplemental Plans, advanced healthcare directives, financial power-of-attorney to senior housing, rehabilitation stays, assisted living and home care, a qualified Certified Senior Advisor will bring compassion and understanding while they help you and your family navigate through the issues regarding aging.