Do not delay the inevitable.

Someone turning 65 today has a 70 percent chance of needing some sort of long-term care. That means chances are strong you will one 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 and lingering stress for all parties involved. Advanced planning matters.

“These conversations are difficult for everyone involved, but are important to get the end result – the care that your loved one deserves,” said Arkansas Health Care Association Executive Director Rachel Bunch. “... These conversations are sensitive and require a shared decision making process. If possible, avoid having this type of conversation in a moment of crisis or heightened emotional event.”

Long-term care experts shared the following tips for knowing when it is time to talk and how to have a productive conversation:

Start Today

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.

Be Prepared

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…

Listen

Your idea of the best long-term care option might not be the same as 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.

Enlist Help

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