Senior care is not something that can be planned well at the last minute or in a hurry, but this is how many people approach planning the care of an elderly loved one. It is very easy to take a parent’s health for granted until suddenly it is no longer there. As you might have guessed, planning care in this way can often result in poor choices being made. Instead of doing this, we recommend discussing senior care with your mom or dad before they need it. It’s likely to be a tough conversation at first, so we’ve put together a few ideas for helping to make this talk a little easier.
First and foremost, talking about senior care should not seem like an attack. It shouldn’t seem like you want your parent to have someone else care for them, and it shouldn’t seem like you are going to ship them off to a nursing home without their consent. Start off speaking in hypothetical terms, and then move forward from there. This is far easier to do when the need for care isn’t immediate. Ask them what they would want to happen if you weren’t able to care for them for some reason if they needed help. Using tentative words and phrases like “if you need senior care” instead of definite words like “when you need senior care” might seem like a small thing, but it changes the whole tone of the conversation and it is a lot less threatening to the person hearing it.
Next, figure out what their ideal senior years look like. You might think you know this already, but let them tell you themselves. Based upon what they want, put together a type of care–still theoretical–that will help them to best meet those desires. Work together, giving them as much input as you can. For those that are suffering from dementia, this will be difficult, but the goal is to help them put together their own care plan. If it’s their idea, they are far more likely to be receptive to receiving senior care if that time ever comes. You can offer guidance by going over the different types of care that are out there and explaining it all to them. For instance, many seniors don’t know what the difference between in-home care and assisted living is. Go over these with your parent and try to answer any questions that they might have. If you can’t answer their questions, find people or resources for them that can.
If you do this months or even years before the need for senior care is there, then even if their health declines or dementia becomes a major issue in the time between, then making senior care decisions will be much easier when it is time to actually implement them. Some seniors have a legal document in place to direct their care, called an advance directive. This can be a very good idea in many instances if you think it would help. Again, talk things over with your mom or dad and get their opinion on this tough topic. As long as you are gentle when approaching the subject, your talk will be much easier to have.