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Caring for Aging Parents: Discussing Change
Elizabeth Bemis

By: Elizabeth Bemis on June 3rd, 2017

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Caring for Aging Parents: Discussing Change

united methodist homes  |  assisted living  |  independent living  |  caring for aging parents  |  discussing change with aging seniors  |  Aging & Caregiving

Caring for aging parents-United Methodist HomesChange is inevitable. As your parents age, you often become their strongest support system. But for many adult children, this may be the one challenge you’re not quite ready for! When caring for aging parents, it usually becomes necessary to have a talk with your loved ones regarding matters of change, such as senior living and long-term care options, legal documentation, and financial decisions. Before any adult child can have this talk, it is important to come to terms with the health changes of your loved and evaluate how these changes will affect the rest of the family.

While this is an uncomfortable subject to discuss, it is important to address this “elephant in the room.” One piece of advice on which many industry experts agree is to have this talk sooner rather than later. Details on how to have this discussion, along with some recommended approaches, are listed here as a guide:

Caring for Aging Parents: Tips on “Change”

  • Start Early. It is much easier to discuss important matters when you are not in the middle of a crisis! Discussing senior living options with your parents (and siblings, so you can all be on the same page) when they don’t have an immediate need is usually a bit easier than when there is a family emergency. When a loved one has spent a few weeks in the hospital, followed by another few weeks at rehab, and has just received the news that they cannot return home alone, it then becomes a bit more stressful to talk about change! In other words: “do it sooner rather than later.” Look for opportunities to bring up the topic; mention a friend who is handling a similar issue or share a newspaper article you read to start the conversation.
  • Discuss the Topics in Increments--Not all at Once. You (and your siblings!) may want to put everything on the table. There may be power of attorney matters to discuss, dietary changes to address or full-time nursing arrangements to consider; however, all these topics need not be aired in one sitting. The most important conversation-opener is letting your parents know you want the best for them and you’re ready to support their wishes; let your reassurance set the tone for the “flow” of topics.
  • Be Supportive, Even if you Disagree. Unless health and safety is at stake, try to give 100% support to your parents’ wishes, even if you disagree. Rather than telling them what to do, express concerns about their decisions.
  • Provide Information. You may be familiar with these scenarios: your mom wants to try out the lifestyle and services of a senior living community or your dad insists on home care to handle all his needs. You now become the “resource person” to help your parents make the right decisions. Research the options; take a tour at some different senior living communities or evaluate what home modifications must be done to prolong your parents’ stay within their home. Some assisted living communities in Connecticut even offer a trial stay, which is a great way to ease into the change of making a move.
  • Evaluate the need for Professional Assistance. Sometimes the opinion of a third party can help when it feels as if there are more questions than answers when discussing change with your loved one. A geriatric care manager, a doctor, a lawyer or a financial planner might be able to serve as a good mediator when you need some professional advice. You can also schedule a call with a SeniorCare Transition Counselor for any additional questions regarding senior living options. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Before talking to your parents about senior living, long-term care options, or other changes, take note of your loved one’s health changes and how they will impact the rest of the family.
  • Make sure the ENTIRE family understands mom and dad's changing needs. This may require additional talks just between siblings.
  • Professionals recommend discussing the “elephant in the room” or having the talk about change sooner rather than later.
  • Plan to discuss one topic at a time and resist the urge to talk about all of the sensitive issues in one family meeting.
  • Be supportive; try to reassure your parents that you will stand by their wishes, even if you disagree.
  • Evaluate the need for professional assistance and if you have more questions than answers, consider counseling from a geriatric care manager, doctor, lawyer or financial planner to help mediate the discussion.

Independent and Assisted Living

If you are interested in learning more about independent and assisted living communities please visit www.umh.org to learn more about our communities and why they would be right for you! 

About Elizabeth Bemis

In 1998, I drove past an assisted living community construction site, learned that it was part of United Methodist Homes and realized the next stop on my professional journey was to work for a mission driven organization. Soon after, I joined the team as Executive Director of our Middlewoods of Farmington community and later served as Regional Manager for the Middlewoods properties before accepting my current role as Vice President of Marketing, Promotions, and Assisted Living Operations. I enjoy spending time with my family, cooking, reading, walking, and love working alongside our staff, residents, and families to build strong communities that reflect the mission, vision, and values of United Methodist Homes.

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