Starting a Care Plan Conversation with Elderly Parents at the "Wrong Time" [Part 3 of 3]
Next, tell your parents, perhaps with one or more of your siblings or relatives, in advance that you and your family are concerned about them and that you would like to talk about their care. You are asking them to discuss their care options with you; you are not telling them what to do. (View Amy O’Rourke’s video presentation to put this in perspective.) In fact, tell your parents that you have already set a date and time within a few days. This may create some conflict if your parents are resistant to discussing their needs. It is important to avoid conflict at this time. Simply express your concerns and reassure them that you are ALL sincere in wanting to listen to them and that they are firmly in control of their own choices. Do not argue simply tell them that you love them and that you are looking forward to seeing them on such and such a date.
By telling your parents of the discussion in advance and setting a specific time, you will eliminate the feeling of being “ambushed”. You will also be giving them time to think about their needs while allowing them the opportunity to be more open about their needs. The following few days may be stressful for everyone. It is important to remain loving, reassuring, and firm during this time.
When the day does come to discuss your parents care needs your team should arrive together. Do not plan a meal or anything beyond coffee or snacks; you want to keep everyone focused and on task. Start the discussion by explaining to your parents that you are all there because you love them and you appreciate their willingness to talk with you. Discuss the goals that you have and that you are there to listen to your parents and what they want. Then do it – listen. You can offer advice and suggestions, but you should be listening more and talking less. Try to enlist everyone in the conversation; the more voices the better.
Your suggestions should include what you and your family can do to help your parents, but it should also include your limitations as well. If you daughter has basketball games every weekend and you are not prepared to miss them, be honest with your parents about your availability. This may open the door to discussing other care options like home care. Your unavailability may be just enough to allow you parents to consider other care options. Remember, you are looking to start the care conversation with your parents and if you only get as far as getting them to accept a cleaning service or caregiver taking them to a doctor appointment or grocery shopping then you have successfully started the conversation.
Do not press for too much too fast. Accept whatever small steps your parents are willing to take toward receiving care and let time and familiarity with care options be your allies. Resolve yourself to the fact that you will have many conversations with your parents and that you will have to be patient. The important thing is that you STARTED the care conversation with your parents. It will continue to take time, effort, and maybe some tears, but you can be satisfied that you have begun the journey.