It all happened so fast for a friend of mine. His dad was in his early 70s and worked his whole life as a successful CEO of a company. He finally retired to enjoy life with his grandchildren and spend time doing all the fun stuff he had planned. They weren’t a family who talked much about tough conversations – what do we do if something happens to you, what are your end-of-life wishes, what if you can’t speak for yourself, what medications are you taking – stuff like that. Like many adult children, they didn’t address the scary stuff we don’t like to think about until we have to.
We were sitting around my dinner table and our friend happened to mention that his dad had been losing weight and didn’t seem himself – it was an off-hand comment that just kind of lingered there. We weren’t used to talking about our parents in this way; I think he was looking for our thoughts of what he should do about this. Maybe he’s coming down with something, the flu is going around. And then the conversation turned to the kids.
We didn’t think too much about that conversation until a few days later when Joe called us and said, ‘I’m on my way to the hospital, my dad had a stroke and he’s unresponsive, it doesn’t look good.’
We were in shock – are we at the age where we should be noticing signs in our aging parents? When do we start paying attention to all those little signals and what do we do about them? After I hung up the phone with him I started to think about my own parents – was I missing something?
If we could create the perfect situation, we’d say having the conversation before a crisis occurs is best, but we know that’s not always the case, especially if those tough conversations mentioned before aren’t so easy to bring up. Or maybe you have suggested the need for extra support only to be told (adamantly) that they don’t need it. People don’t want to talk about ‘care,’ they want to focus on independence. How do we help them? It starts with the conversation so you can help them maintain their independence, take the steps to prevent a health crisis, and be prepared if it should occur.
Homespire Life Care Managers (registered nurses) have helped many people broach these tough subjects and have learned that emphasizing the positive and putting your older loved one in control of the decision-making (for all aspects of senior care) makes all the difference in starting the conversation about late life care.
Here are five tips to get you started:
- Ask them about their life goals and what may be getting in the way.
- Talk about health care directives and what they want you to know. You’d be surprised how many seniors want to have this conversation but aren’t sure how to bring it up with you.
- Talk and keep talking. The conversation doesn’t have to be large at first, but the more you open up, the easier talking about ‘care’ will be. The goal is to start the conversation.
- Suggest they organize their medication list and let you or someone they trust know where to find it if they ever need it in an emergency (share a story about why this is important).
- Help them understand you want to do whatever you can to keep them healthy. Share any signs you’ve seen that have you concerned. It’s possible they are feeling the same way and didn’t know how to bring it up or perhaps they didn’t even notice and it’s worth checking into before a health crisis hits.
Reach out to Homespire for any help you need in addressing tough conversations or identifying the early warning signs.