How and Why to Have the Tough Conversation
As our population ages, the chances are strong that you will one day need to evaluate which type of care is right for a loved one.
Discussing long-term care options might seem like an uncomfortable conversation. It can be.
Experts agree that the sooner you and your loved ones discuss preferred options, the better your chances of maintaining quality of life can be. Whether the desire is to remain at home, live in a community geared for seniors or move in with a family member, a discussion about options should not wait until the last minute.
Waiting creates undue, lingering stress for all parties. Advanced planning matters because it’s hard to predict exactly when the moment of decision will come, says Rachel Bunch, Arkansas Health Care Association Executive Director.
“Typically what brings someone to a facility is an event or a crisis,” she says. “Some kind of unexpected health event.”
Prior preparation, Bunch says, allows decision-makers to be more nimble in navigating care options. But the conversations matter in order to get the desired result — the care a loved one deserves.
“I think health care is always evolving and the options that are available are evolving,” Bunch says. “The health care profession continues to learn more and technology advances and we’re doing it better year after year.”
Long-term care experts shared the following tips for knowing when it is time to talk and how to have a productive conversation:
Not to sound like a broken record, but the key to productive long-term care conversations is to have them before they are needed. Working in advance allows your loved one time to process options and clearly state their goals and desires. Waiting until a health issue forces the conversation can lead to high-stress, poor decisions and hurt feelings.
Look for “Red Flag” issues
Frequent falls, minor health issues that turn into larger, lingering problems and a decline in the skills needed for daily living are signals that a change might be imminent. Other concerns to be on the lookout for include noticeable weight loss, neglected pets or plants and changes in hygiene or social interactions.
Familiarize yourself with options that are available in your area. Before you begin a discussion with loved ones concerning care options, know what options are available. Each choice has pros and cons and it is best to have a full understanding of the good and the bad before you begin talking to your loved one. That said…
Your idea of the best long-term care option might not be the same as that of your loved one. Genuinely work to understand their point of view and why they might prefer staying at home or why they view a community as their best option.
If you are unable to get feedback initially, let your loved one know that you are available when they think the time is right to talk.
Involve other family members in the conversation. You do not want anyone to feel left out of the process. It might be beneficial to include trusted medical providers and friends in the discussion. Sometimes your loved one might initially trust the judgment of others outside the family. Ask for their help.
Sources: Rachel Bunch, Executive Director Arkansas Healthcare Association; AARP; Brian Rega, Director St. Bernards Village in Jonesboro; Cindy McClain, Marketing Director, Parkway Village in Little Rock; Mike Martin, Owner, Visiting Angels of Central Arkansas.
THE CONVERSATION MATTERS
- 92% of people say that talking with their loved ones about end-of-life care is important.
- 32% have actually done so.
- 21% of people say they haven’t had the conversation because they don’t want to upset their loved one.
- 53% say they’d be relieved if a loved one started the conversation.
Source: The Conversation Project