I hope today’s blog will provide you with a tool for having a conversation this holiday season. Almost all of us have older folks in our families, many of whom we don’t see on a regular basis. A visit after a year or more absence often reveals changes related to aging that may not be evident from a distance. These changes, even if subtle, will ideally prompt a conversation about the future.
Most of us give thought and planning to retirement. I don’t know about you, but when I think about it, my mind goes to all the fulfilling things I want to do like travel and give back. Rarely do I consider a time when I will need help or be incapacitated in some way. I suspect I am not alone in this-there is a natural denial about such things.
This denial can and often does lead to a crisis. Those of us who work with older adults encounter this on a regular basis. Often the scenario goes something like this: An aging person is having trouble caring for him or herself at home. They may be falling, forgetting things, not eating well, or having accidents with the car…the list goes on and on. The adult children are naturally concerned and may feel the need to take some action. They approach the older person who insists they are fine and don’t need any help. Sound familiar to anyone?
These situations create difficulties and are wrought with emotional uncertainty. There are no easy answers. If you are an adult child or loved one in this situation there are a few principles to keep in mind:
- Keep the autonomy of the older person top of mind. This is the highest principle in ethics. It is important to be respectful and let them lead and make decisions as much as possible. Taking charge is tempting, but most likely will backfire.
- Listen to what the older person is saying. Often what is beneath resistance is fear. Try to uncover the emotion and acknowledge it. This helps to bring down defenses.
- Educate yourself about what options are available to the older person in the community. These include community resources through the local Department on Aging, senior living, in home assistance, meals on wheels, and transportation.
- Work together with siblings and other family members rather than being at odds. Have a meeting and decide on roles and responsibilities-then trust each person to carry out their part of the bargain. A word to those who live far away-be a cheerleader for your siblings who are there day in and day out-not a critic.
The best case scenario is to have conversations with aging parents before there is a problem. While the family is together this holiday season why not bring up the issue? Use this blog as an opener. You could start by saying, “I read a blog about aging issues and it got me thinking, what would you want to happen if you were not able to care for yourself?”
This can then lead to setting up a more formal meeting to discuss things like wills, advance medical directives, financial considerations, and contingency planning if health issues arise. Some organizations and individuals advocate the “70-40 Rule.” That is, when your parent is 70 or older, and you are 40 or older, it is time to have conversations about aging and the future.
Having this conversation is a way to honor each other and have a calm conversation without strong emotions involved. Most likely older people have thought about these things and if they don’t have a plan, will feel a sense of relief to begin formulating one.
Give this gift to yourself and your loved ones this holiday season.
Be Well on Purpose!
Brookdale Senior Living Solution is ready to help answer your aging questions. Call us at 1-855-444-SOLVE (7658).