With a Loved One: Broaching the subject of long-term care with an aging loved one isn’t an easy thing to do. It is often uncomfortable, especially when brought on by unexpected circumstances. 

However, long-term care isn’t a conversation to push to the end of the to-do list.

Discussing preferred options of long- and short-term care with the loved one ahead of the make-or-break moment is shown to increase their chances of maintaining their standard quality of life. 

Jonas Schaffer, administrator and operator at Greenhurst Nursing Center, recommends people write down their preferred options.

“It is imperative for anyone to write down what you want to happen. That’s the greatest gift you can give your loved ones – they can follow the instructions you have created,” Schaffer said. 

No one expects their quality of life or health to get to the point of long-term care, but planning for this situation can help ease the burden of finding the right place for your loved one. 

More often than not, the circumstances leading up to the consideration of long-term care aren’t anticipated, and families are tasked with choosing the best route for their loved one. How should this conversation be initiated?

“It’s really important to ensure that you are respecting your loved ones’ autonomy and ability to make decisions,” said Courtney Ghormley, a geropsychologist. “But also, if they’re unable to make that decision on their own, to be engaged in making that decision. They may or may not recognize that they need help. It means a lot for older adults to have a say in their own care.”

Kids: Explaining to children the process of and decisions behind a loved one entering long-term care can be another difficult conversation. While you may have seen the discussion looming on the horizon, a child might not notice the signs leading up to the deciding moment. When sitting down to inform or explain the circumstances to a child, April McSpadden, a licensed professional counselor with Wellspring Renewal Center, says it’s important to consider their age and their personality. 

“Approach it depending on their age. A three-year-old is going to accept information differently than a teenager would. Consider how much, based on what you know of your child, are they able to manage, to understand, to work with,” McSpadden said. “Are they more of a sensitive empath or less empathetic? However you go at it, keep feelings in mind and, most importantly, be empathetic yourself, recognizing that however it hits them, they’re probably going to have questions and feelings that might not match yours.”

After explaining long-term care and the reason their loved one is entering it, it’s important for the communication to continue to be open. Children are likely to have questions about their loved one, and all channels of communication should remain open to help answer those questions as best as possible. Patience is key in helping children understand and process the emotions that come with these decisions.

Should the child be included in the process of moving a loved one into a care facility, it’s important to understand that emotions may be high.

Rachel Bunch, executive director of the Arkansas Health Care Association said, “The family and resident may experience excitement with the decorating and settling-in process but also may experience feelings of anxiety and loss. Moving is seldom easy and acceptance of the move ... may occur over a period of weeks or longer for some people.”

No matter the case, approaching the situation with an open mind and a willingness to understand and discuss emotions will help ease the discomfort of the situation.

Region/ Agency
I / Area Agency on Aging of Northwest Arkansas
870.741.1144; 800.432.9721 | TDD: 870.741.1346
II / White River Area Agency on Aging
870.612.3000 | Toll-free & TDD: 800.382.3205
III / East Arkansas Area Agency on Aging
870.972.5980 | 800.467.3278
IV / Area Agency on Aging of Southeast Arkansas
870.543.6300; 800.264.3260 | TDD: 870.543.6339
V / CareLink (Central Arkansas Area Agency on Aging)
501.372.5300 | Toll-free & TDD: 800.482.6359
VI / Area Agency on Aging of West Central Arkansas
501.321.2811 | 800.467.2170
VII / Area Agency on Aging of Southwest Arkansas
870.234.7410 | 800.272.2127
VIII / Area Agency on Aging of Western Arkansas
479.783.4500 | 800.320.6667