You probably heard about the dreaded “talk” with your parents. I’m not talking about the birds and the bees. I’m talking about a whole other animal: your parent’s long term care plans.
Are you concerned about your parents’ care and wellbeing, but afraid of having the “talk” regarding the next stage in the wellness and care that they could need? This next stage could involve many things including home-downsizing, enlisting the help of homecare, or entering an assisted living or a nursing facility. If you aren’t prepared for the “talk,” you might be right! This conversation could end up having you feel like it became an “epic fail.”
On the other extreme, and actually what’s more common, is that this conversation won’t come up until a crisis moment, such as a bad fall from one of your parents, or a broken hip. At that time your parents will still need to make the same choices, but they will be hurried, perhaps in pain, not as well planned, and several regrettable compromises or even mistakes could ensue.
Let’s look at some reasons why this conversation might take so long to come to light:
- No one wants to think about “negatives” such as death and taxes, as the adage goes.
- No one wants to be a burden on their children.
- No one wants to appear helpless, and the “talk” might make them feel cornered.
- So many zealously want to hang on to their independence and as such deny the possibility of ever losing it.
- You or your parents may feel you are still too young to do anything meaningful about such unpleasant inevitabilities.
- Finances might seem impossible, it’s too painful to think about that.
- No one wants to lose their status, their furniture, their garden, all the things they’ve worked so hard to obtain.
- Some fear the idea of assisted living or nursing homes as one step away from death.
- Death and taxes won’t go away by ignoring them, but this isn’t death and taxes. This could be something positive for you.
- You could be a bigger burden emotionally, economically, and physically if your health deteriorates and bad things happen like broken hips.
- By taking the time to talk about this, you aren’t being helpless, you’re actually taking control.
- You won’t lose control of your life simply because you’re getting some help. Imagine being in bed all day because you’re afraid to fall, that would be a complete loss of control.
- Mom, you’re fit today, so take advantage and make some plans while you are on top of your game.
- You might be able to afford the best care you deserve. Let’s talk to an elder law attorney or financial advisor to see what they come up with. In fact, by waiting too long, you could lose a lot of money that you should be using to enjoy life.
- Dad, no one is saying you’re moving any time soon. But now that you have some time, maybe you can make a mental list of which furniture you really want to keep or give, and what you can sell instead. And mom, I know you like gardening. Let’s find a couple of places where you can keep doing that– it’ll be fun.
- Mom, Dad, if you’re not prepared, if your condition gets worse, getting help could lengthen your life, and increase your quality of life.
The next step is to try and assess your parents’ safety situation. This is hard to do, and I don’t believe anyone has a magic answer to predict the optimal moment someone should take action, be it to have home care or move into a facility. One logical approach would be to grade their ability to be independent. This would only provide a snapshot of their current situation, but at least you would be provided a more objective means to approach and eventually make a decision. Maybe your father’s only problem is he doesn’t take his medication faithfully. But if your mother is having problems with hygiene, missing bill payments, and unable to drive, these problems add up to a clearer picture of losing independence sooner than later.
Lastly, try not to reverse roles; you’ll always be their child in your parents’ eyes. It’s uncomfortable for most to hear one’s child acting as his or her own parent. Let them know you care, that you see some things that concern you that they might not be aware of, such as having too many bruises and cuts from recent falls that might be happening too often, but that they’ll always be your mom and dad to you.