You know that it is that time.
Your elder is having difficulty caring for themselves. The house is getting too much to clean. The stairs and a walker do not go together. Or, there is a clinical condition that warrants consideration of a different living situation.
Psychologically, you understand the situation. Emotionally, the thought of telling a parent, a spouse, a friend that a new residence is warranted is terrifying! It all begins with having “that” conversation. At times, it is easier to have a mediator lead the conversation; for others, bringing the family together is needed. The most important rule to keep in mind is that your goal is for the elder to make the decision. Your role is to present information and empower.
Help Is Needed – Indicators to Recognize
- Spoiled or out of date food in the kitchen.
- Mail piled up or unopened.
- Finances are not up to date.
- Difficulty walking, mobility, balance.
- Vehicle dented or scraped.
- Clutter within the home,
- Change in personal grooming.
- Weight loss or weight gain.
- Change in social habits.
- Not taking prescribed medications.
- Missing appointments.
- An unexplained bruise, burns, cuts.
First Steps – Assess and Gather Facts
- Physical and psychological evaluation by medical professionals.
- Decluttering and organizing the residence.
- Legal and Financial State
- Home monitoring systems.
Pre-Planning for a Transition
- Living Will, Trust, Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy.
- Elder Empowerment to make life decisions before they are unable to.
- Family meeting and agreement.
- Home valuation, repair, cleanup.
- What is/are the clinical need(s) of the elder(s).
Conversation Tips – Engage in Purposeful Conversation
- Empower the elder – the ability to make independent decisions before family, friends, or care givers are forced to make decision of the elder’s behalf.
- Understand the elder’s wants and needs – one goal is always safety. This requires understanding any current or potential physical and/or psychological changes. Engaging in a purposeful conversation about end of life is not death planning. It is a process designed to understand the elder’s desires when they are unable to communicate them.
- Develop a transition GPS – know where legal, financial, and healthcare documents are kept. Are elder finances positioned to meet their needs; if not, what is the gap between assets and anticipated expenses?
- One message – Ensure all family members understand the situation and the plan. It is not the time for one family member to be played off another.
- The plan – Based on the facts or needs, what options are available? Discuss a limited set of options and be knowledgeable about each.
- Timing – A decision can’t be made in a split-second. Have a time frame in mind providing sufficient time for decision-making.