Starting a Care Plan Conversation with Elderly Parents at the "Wrong Time" [Part 1 of 3]
Starting the conversation with your elderly parents about caring for their needs can be difficult. In fact, the majority of families will avoid this conversation entirely until a medical issue or the need for home care creates an urgent need for action. There are plenty of other articles offering advice about planning for your parents care and the importance of timing, but the unfortunate fact is that most of us will find ourselves having this conversation at a time when our parents are least willing to talk and are in the most need of care.
The bad news is that we – you can include me in that group – waited to talk to our parents until there was some event that forced us to act. The good news is that many other families have been in the exact same situation, and it is possible to develop a care plan for your parents. But, if you are going to be successful you will need to keep a few things in mind.
First, you need to understand that this is your mom or dad’s life, and, as long as they are capable, they are the ones that need to be happy with the solutions. It is difficult for adult children to witness our parents declining in physical and mental abilities, and it is normal for us to want to take control and make decisions for them at this time. After all, we are talking about Living in Place, and 8 out of 10 seniors want to remain in their own homes.
But, you will need to resist this instinct of attempting to take control and making decisions. You need to remember that you are having a conversation about what your parents want for themselves. That means you should be listening and offering advice, not pushing decisions. It is important to take the time to - listen, listen, listen - and then listen some more to how your parents want to live. If you find yourself doing most of the talking, then you can be assured you are not spending enough time listening.
It is also important that you focus on the issues that are currently at hand. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by potential issues too far into the future. Long term planning is great, but right now you need to devote your efforts to the present. Try to limit the conversation and solutions to the next few weeks to the several months. The immediate problems are probably enough to deal with right now, and you are more likely to come up with something that works for everyone if you set your goal on the short term. Once you get yourself some breathing room, you will have time to work on the longer range stuff.