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How To Start A Discussion On Long-Term Care With Your Aging Parent

Most people don’t joyfully await the day they can move into an assisted living or nursing home facility. While we may anticipate that one day we made need to during our later years (perhaps through owning a Long-Term Care insurance policy), the hope is we’ll never need to use it.

The vast majority of Americans would much rather age in place. But, sometimes mom and dad get to a point where they need “the extras” that assisted living and nursing home care provide.

Perhaps aging individuals have gone through physical and mental changes that render it virtually impossible to live at home – no matter the extra help they receive.

For adult children, this would now be the time (if not sooner) to have a challenging conversation with mom and dad.

So how exactly do you broach this topic skillfully and compassionately? Well, there are a few strategies that may help you navigate this sensitive issue.

1. Maybe the first goal is merely bringing up the topic of long-term care.

Discussing long-term care doesn’t mean your parents have to decide right away. There is value in the simple act of talking, acknowledging current realities and potential futures. A calm and measured discussion shows that you are supportive of your parents. It also enables them to vent their feelings while talking about their goals, values, and preferences. This type of “early-stage” dialogue builds trust and strengthens your relationship. It will probably also ease the way for more detailed discussions and decisions in the future, no matter how near or far.

2. Be sure to stress your parent’s autonomy and choice in the matter.

No one likes being told what to do, and no one takes kindly to the risk of losing their independence. We all want to be in control of our own decision-making for as long as we can. Try centering your dialogue around your parent’s aspirations and strengths. Then, focus on the options and choices available to them. Ask them about their Plan B if they’re having trouble caring for themselves adequately. If they don’t have one, offer to work with them to develop one.

3. Talk about it like you would an insurance policy.

This is a great way to normalize the conversation. Speak about long-term care as if it’s a way to face the unexpected or undesirable occurrences in life. In this type of approach, focus on the various ranges of assistance from which a person can choose. This list is long, such as from home health aides to in-home skilled nursing care, from assisted living to nursing homes.

4. Discuss the varying degrees of care available.

Long-term care doesn’t have to be an abrupt transition; it can be gradual. Maybe you start with in-home services and move to something more structured over time. Be educated about all available services and centers in your area before your talk. That way, you can share this information and plan for the least restrictive, most acceptable (and even desirable) option at the moment. And, preparing for the many pathways to care before a crisis increases your parent’s chance of having time to make good choices.

5. Involve professionals as a last resort.

Bringing in professionals is a last-ditch effort scenario. No one wants to think strangers are confronting them instead of caring for family members.

That said, you can’t ignore the problem away, even if mom and dad are emphatic that they’re fine living as they are. This would be an appropriate approach if you feel you’re getting nowhere and are afraid your relationship with your parents is at stake. In these particular circumstances, seek out help from mental health specialists. They can assess your parents’ mental states and decision-making capacities.

Let these specialists know about your concerns about the sustainability of your parent’s current living situation. Depending on their findings, they may be able to act as a third-party facilitator to the hard conversations. And maybe their expert information can help tether the lines of communication, so your parents can choose the most appropriate plan of action.

This is a delicate undertaking. You’re asking your aging parents to come either plan for or come to terms with setbacks. This conversation includes inherent losses – like the home they’ve lived in for decades. But, with research, options, and reassurance, these conversations could lead to your loved ones enjoying a more healthy, secure and fulfilling future.

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