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How to Discuss Deteriorating Health Options with Elderly Parents

Even the spriest and healthiest of elderly individuals will, eventually, slow down and perhaps require the help of another person in order to perform day-to-day tasks. For adult children who are watching their parents’ health deteriorate, knowing how to talk about deteriorating health and options for care can be challenging; elderly parents are often in denial about their health, resistant to change, or even upset about the insinuation that they aren’t as able-bodied as they once were. Whether you are discussing the possibility of free home healthcare services, such as those provided to  DOL EEOICPA and RECA beneficiaries, or need to start talking about nursing home care, powers of attorney, and other long-term care planning solutions, here are some tips that can help–

1. Practice Empathy

Anytime that you’re having a difficult conversation with anyone, putting yourself in their shoes and approaching the conversation with a little empathy can make a big difference. Think for a moment about how hard it must be to be unable to do the things you once did, or perform basic self-care. Acknowledge the sense of loss your parent may be experiencing, and approach the conversation from a place of compassionate.

2. Don’t Just Announce Decisions

Nothing is more frustrating to an elderly parent than having their child announce a care plan, such as that they must begin a certain healthcare regimen, or need to receive in-home care from a nurse, or must be moved into a nursing home. Instead of simply announcing your plans to your parent for their care, allow your parent to be part of the decision-making process. Sit down with your mom or dad and have an honest conversation about their needs and about what they want and are comfortable with. Be willing to listen, compromise, and let them participate in making the ultimate decision.

3. Plan Ahead

Waiting until the last minute to make plans for an aging loved one whose health is deteriorating isn’t recommended; instead, start to think about healthcare and other elements of caring for an elderly person before there is an emergency. By putting in place a plan for healthcare when your parent is of sound mind, everyone can take more comfort in the fact that, in the event that it’s necessary, a plan of action that everyone agrees upon is in place.

4. Work with Professionals

As you broach the topic of deteriorating health and various care options with your parent and other family members, getting a professional involved in the discussion can be powerful. Various professionals can serve to mediate conversations, provide ideas, serve as sources of information, and help you to make sound legal decisions. Professionals with whom you may consider working include lawyers, psychiatrists, family counselors, healthcare experts, and even professional mediators.

Start Thinking About the Conversation Now

If you know that your parent is aging and it’s time to have a conversation about their care, start thinking about how you will approach them and what your vision for their care is now. Delaying too long in having the conversation, as difficult as it may be, can have negative consequences.