Before you make your decision about whether or not companionship, home health care, or senior care is right for you or your loved one, it’s important to discuss the present and future needs with your family. The discussions on health, finances, and living arrangements are often difficult to begin, but they are crucial to properly preparing for the future.
However, the difficulty in starting these important conversations have led to communications gaps between family caregivers and loved ones. In fact, according to a seniorjournal.com study, the major communications gaps between parents and children when discussing important issues are almost overwhelming; with only 32% of seniors reporting their children have discussed their current and future health issues with them.
But since these discussions are so important to your home health care and caregiving decisions, and since an AARP study found that seniors felt more at ease when these discussions were had when they were still in good health, it’s vital, as the family caregiver, to tackle these issues head-on as soon as possible.
Below are some tips in starting and effectively communicating, and what topics to discuss:
Where do they want to live as they get older?
Almost 90% of seniors want to stay in their home for as long as possible, but doing so requires effectively planning seniors’ current and future needs, and discussing whether living at home is a viable option. Ask your friend or loved one where they want to live, and if they say at home, then tackle the issues one-by-one. For instance, who will help take you to doctor’s appointments, or pick up medications? Will you need help in performing chores around the house; such as cooking, cleaning, dressing, and toilet help? If so, can a family member be there to help, or should you explore other forms of help, like home health or personal home care assistants?
For most of us, driving is not only something we need to do every day to take care of errands, but it also provides us with a sense of freedom and independence. The latter reason is what makes the decision to give up driving one of the most difficult, but it’s also one of the most important discussions to have, for safety’s sake.
Vision, hearing loss, decreased mobility, and even medication usage can impair driving. If you are concerned about your friend or loved one’s driving, try to experience it first-hand, and look for warning signs like abrupt lane changes, slow driving, and increased frustration.
If you notice that it’s time to have the discussion, be open, honest, and respectful. Remember, this is a very, very difficult decisions for your friend or loved one, so be understanding when they react to your requests and suggest alternatives that can lessen the sting. For instance, suggest grouping all their chores into one trip to avoid constant driving, or if they are still adamant they can drive, suggest that they compromise and forego driving in the evening.
However, if you feel your friend or loved one is completely unsafe while driving, do what is best for them and consider making the tough choice to take the keys or car away. In the end, it’s all about keeping your friend or loved one healthy and safe.
Remember, it’s a conversation, not a lecture:
Besides having a friend or loved one with a dementia-related illness that impairs their judgement, their future choices are ultimately theirs. Telling your friend or loved one what they’re going to do or where they’re going to live can quickly be a conversation killer. Instead, remember that the conversation about their future needs is exactly that: a conversation.
You may be the “child”, per se, but remember that when you’re speaking with your parents that the conversation is adult-to-adult. Approach them with respect, restrain judgement, and be open and honest in your discussions with them. Don’t beat around the bush when it comes to their health and safety. And always remember to listen to their wants and desires, and address them directly. Don’t put discussing them off, no matter if they seem unattainable or not. If their wants can’t be met, whether it’s because of health or other reasons, tell them why and discuss reasonable alternatives.
Opening up lanes of communication, and discussing long-term needs with your friend or loved one before they’re needed are important to a happy and healthier future. If you want more information before beginning your discussions, or have decided that you should discover more about your home health care, senior care, or personal/companionship care options, feel free to talk to one of our Care Advisors at 317-581-1100.