The Importance of Having the Tough Conversation
Do not delay the inevitable.
Someone turning 65 today has a 70% chance of needing some sort of long-term care. That means chances are strong you will one day need to evaluate which type of care is right for a loved one.
Discussing long-term care options might seem like an uncomfortable conversation. It can be.
Experts agree that the sooner you and your loved ones discuss preferred options, the better your chances of maintaining quality of life can be. Whether the desire is to remain at home, live in a community geared for seniors or move in with a family member, a discussion about options should not wait until the last minute.
Waiting creates undue and lingering stress for all parties involved. Advanced planning matters because it’s hard to predict exactly when the moment of decision will come, said Tasa Anderson, director of sales and marketing for independent senior living facility Trinity Terrace, in Fort Worth.
“[A mistake is] waiting too long to make the move. Waiting until there is already a level of care required,” Anderson said.
Prior preparation allows decision-makers to be more nimble in navigating care options, Anderson said. She noted the range of available choices that include continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) like Trinity Care, 55-and-older rental communities, communities with assistance and skilled-care nursing homes.
To get the desired result — and the care a loved one deserves — the conversation is what matters, as does the right approach, said Jaime Cobb, vice president of dementia & caregiver education at James L. West Center for Dementia Care in Fort Worth.
“One of the best ways is to know that it’s going to be several conversations,” Cobb said. “You’re not just going to have one big conversation and everything is going to be decided and all that.”
When discussing long-term care options it is important to assess which facilities are best for an individual’s needs, said Dr. Sarah Ross, assistant professor of geriatrics with the Center for Geriatrics at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. A person with dementia, for example, will have care needs that differ from a person with physical health problems.
“It’s very much unique because with dementia you may have somebody who needs 24/7 care for safety reasons but is in superb physical condition,” Ross said. “Your garden variety nursing home is not set up to care for somebody like that.”
To help navigate the talk about needs and options, long-term care experts shared the following tips for knowing how to have a productive conversation:
Not to sound like a broken record, but the key to productive long-term care conversations is to have them before they are needed. Working in advance allows your loved one time to process options and clearly state their goals and desires. Waiting until a health issue forces the conversation can lead to high-stress, poor decisions and hurt feelings.
of people say that talking with their loved ones about end-of-life care is important.
of people have actually done so.
of people say they’d be willing to talk about their wishes.
of people say they’d be relieved if a loved one started the conversation.
LOOK FOR ‘RED FLAG’ ISSUES
Frequent falls; minor health issues that turn into larger, lingering problems and a decline in the skills needed for daily living are signals that a change might be imminent. Other concerns to be on the lookout for include noticeable weight loss, neglected pets or plants and changes in hygiene or social interactions.
Familiarize yourself with options that are available in your area. Before you begin a discussion with loved ones concerning care options, know what options are available. Each choice has pros and cons and it is best to have a full understanding of the good and the bad before you begin talking to your loved one. That said …
Your idea of the best long-term care option might not be the same as your loved one’s. Genuinely work to understand their point of view and why they might prefer staying at home or why they view a community as their best option.
If you are unable to get feedback initially, let your loved one know that you are available when they think the time is right to talk.
Involve other family members in the conversation. You do not want anyone to feel left out of the process. It might be beneficial to include trusted medical providers and friends in the discussion. Sometimes your loved one might initially trust the judgment of others outside the family. Ask for their help.