A Care Manager’s View – How do I talk with my parents about the future?

I was reminded recently of a question clients, friends, and family will often ask; “How do I talk with my aging parents about where and how they want to live in the near future?”.

Frequently, this question will come from friends or acquaintances who learn that I work as a geriatric care manager. Future living options could include a vast range of choices from in-home care to a skilled nursing facility.

My most recent experience with this occurred with a new acquaintance. She was able to find a moment to speak with me privately and immediately stated “My dad has dementia, he and my mom live out of state, and I have no idea how to talk with him about planning for the future. He is very stoic and doesn’t talk about his diagnosis. What do I do?”

My greatest advice in these situations is for the adult child to approach their parent with dignity and discuss the need to make a plan BEFORE an emergency forces a plan.

The reason I suggest this is because often we, as adult children, will delay bringing up the inevitable because we have difficulty navigating that parent-child relationship with our aging parent(s). I firmly believe giving our parents the choice, while they can still make a decision, is our number one priority. However, working with our parents through this process can be difficult at times.

The best method I have found for initiating this conversation is to find a time that works best for our parents to talk face to face. Perhaps enjoying their favorite coffee or dessert together. Then, gently begin a discussion regarding where they would like to live in the future. Sometimes, hiring an advocate, such as myself or one of my colleagues, helps with this discussion. We are a neutral party. We can relay our experiences where we have learned that a client has had an emergent medical event which forced them to make a rushed decision into care. Often, these decisions end up being more difficult than if our loved one had been given the opportunity to research their options, think about their likes and dislikes, and make an informed decision and plan BEFORE an emergency forces one.

I hope this bit of insight proves helpful in whatever stage of care you may be approaching with your loved one(s).

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