Watching a loved one age can be hard. And when your parent or grandparent can no longer live independently and requires more help than you and your family can provide, it’s time to start looking into senior care options. But, before you present the idea of changing living arrangements to mom or dad, we recommend you assemble the family first. If that initial conversation seems daunting, here are a few tips to help you navigate “the talk.”
1 First things first – schedule an in-person meeting well in advance, especially if any family members must travel from out of town. This will give you and them time to prepare and consider ideas. A face-to-face meeting will also allow you to be attuned to others’ body language, changes in tones of voice and other non-verbal signals. Pay attention to the needs being expressed, which will help you communicate more effectively.
2 Prior to the meeting, prepare and document specific objective evidence that shows your parent needs elder care, especially if you’re the primary caregiver. Your less-involved family members might have a very different understanding of your parent’s needs. Explain what you’ve observed and give them an opportunity to see things from your perspective. Be ready to discuss what you have been doing to date and why you can’t continue providing the same or an increasing level of at-home care, be it family or work obligations, financial burden, and other reasons.
3 It’s also a good idea to know the details of your parents’ will and other estate documents before you start planning with your family. Your parents might have already expressed wishes regarding their elder care. Moreover, their financial decisions might affect others’ ability to pitch in and help. Have all the necessary information on hand before making decisions.
4 Prevent overwhelming people by taking a break before moving to each topic. Approach each discussion with a clear objective in mind. What living arrangement best fits the current need? Who is the best messenger to introduce the idea to your parent? Who will provide financial support or manage finances? Who will research and tour each assisted living community?
5 Avoid the temptation to know best. Let go of any old grudges or unresolved competitions, so you can make the best joint decision for your aging loved one. Your views may be different from others’ but make an effort to hear and consider their ideas and suggestions. Even if the ultimate decision lies with your parent or the primary caregiver, everyone deserves to be heard. Be open to all ideas, especially offers of help. At the end of the meeting, make sure to create an action plan you can all agree on and make a plan to revisit it periodically, especially as your parents needs evolve.
6 If you reach an impasse, consider engaging an elder care mediator who can facilitate the discussion so it doesn’t get too heated and everyone gets to speak. Most important, a facilitator can help ensure you all remain focused on the goal of giving your aging parent the best senior care and the best lifestyle possible. If you live in the Houston area, Harris County Agency on Aging can provide a referral. If you would like to tour The Medallion or Seven Acres, or speak with someone about your loved one’s needs, contact Stephanie Barrocas, Director of Community Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-778-5702.