Starting the Conversation about Future Health Needs

Daughter with her mother in an assisted living community 

Sarah’s parents want to age at home. That’s what they have always told her and her brother Sam. With their 80th birthday celebration planned for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Sarah and Sam have been discussing what may happen if one of their parents got ill or developed dementia. Sarah knows that a detailed discussion with her parents needs to take place soon.

Sarah and Sam are facing a challenging decision. When and how should they start talking to their elderly parents about their future health needs? While starting this conversation can be difficult, discussing the care they may need and the senior housing options available to them, as well as financial and legal matters that could arise, is a vital step to take before a real crisis were to occur. With the holidays arriving shortly and families getting ready to enjoy time together, this presents a good opportunity to talk to aging loved ones.

Tips for Planning the Conversation and Talking with Elderly Parents

  • Ask your loved one’s permission to speak with them about their future and how you may support them in their desires.
  • Choose a time during the holiday festivities when the celebrations are concluded, they are well rested and there are a couple of quite hours for discussion.
  • Invite people to join you who your loved ones trust or who will be responsible for some or all of their care.
  • Be supportive and honest about your concerns and why the conversation is needed.

Be Prepared with Conversation Starters

Bring a list of questions along for this important discussion to help you stay on track. Let them know there are no right or wrong answers. Questions may be divided into three categories:

A. Care & Living

  1. Do you envision living in your house throughout your aging?
  2. What about when one of you requires increased care or if one of you passes?
  3. How do you envision being supported in your day to day care
  4. What do you feel are the benefits of staying in your home?
  5. What do you think are the challenges to staying in your home?
  6. What do you think would be the benefits to moving to a senior living community?
  7. What do you think would be your challenges to joining a senior living community?
  8. What kind of community would interest you? For example, would a religious community, a culturally integrated, a welcoming LGBT community, or union/profession established living community be more or less desirable?
  9. What do you envision your end of life care looking like?

B. Financial Issues

  1. Do you have a will? When was the last time it was updated?
  2. Have you met with a senior estate planner? May we join you at a meeting to understand your resources for care?
  3. Will you leave your financial information with us?
  • Attorney contact
  • Bank account information
  • Safety deposit box information, authorization and key
  • Investments, titles, mortgage, documents
  • Life insurance policies

C. Healthcare Documents

  1. Do you have the following documents?
  • Living will
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney
  • Authorization to release information
  • Healthcare directive
  • Medical history
  • Insurance card and information
  • Long-term care policy
  • Contact information for doctors and pharmacists
  • List of medications, dosages

Tips to Keep in Mind Throughout the Conversation

When talking with elderly parents, it’s important to treat them with the respect they deserve and keep their desires in mind. This will ensure the conversation goes as smoothly as possible for all those involved.

  • Listen and acknowledge. Let your loved one know you hear and understand what they are saying.
  • Be an advocate. Share how much you care about their happiness and well-being.
  • Lead by example. Share your thought process or answers to the questions regarding your own aging process.
  • Read the signs. Be prepared to stop the conversation if your elder gets tired or frustrated.
  • Make lists. Recommend one assignment or activity to accomplish before the next discussion like, creating a list of doctors and medications, gather financial information, or make a list of the things that are important to them as they age.
  • Be proactive. Make a date to continue the conversation.

It is never too early to start the conversation on aging plans with your loved ones. It is best to have a plan in place before care is needed. Be proactive and research the resources and types of senior housing options and communities near you. Tour with your elders so they can get a sense of what may appeal to them if and when a senior living community is needed in the future. Review the information guide and workbook, Prepare to Care, A Planning Guide for Families from the AARP.

Call or visit Green Hill to discuss how to prepare your loved one emotionally, physically and financially for joining a senior continuum of care community. Learn more about the lifestyle and residential options available by contacting us today.