There’s No Time Like the Present- Beginning the Conversation About Long-Term Care
By April Barnes, Curis Health
While most older Americans are attracted to the idea of aging at home, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, 70% of adults, aged 65 and over, will need some form of assistance from a skilled nursing facility during their life’s journey. Whether that is in the form of short-term rehabilitation or long-term care, with every year that passes, the chances of your love one needing care statistically increases. However, knowing when the time is right to consider help from a skilled nursing facility can be a challenge.
When you as the caregiver are starting to recognize and observe the need for your loved one to have help with everyday activities of daily living (such as bathing, dressing, making meals, or simply getting around from one destination to another), it can be hard to watch and accept. It is at this time, you must consider beginning the conversation in regards how, and most importantly, where your loved one will have their daily needs met should they no longer safely perform any combination of these duties alone. For adult children, talking to aging parents about such a move can not only be tough, but will more than likely cause a great deal of stress for the entire family. However, this cannot be a reason to not begin the conversation immediately.
So now you may ask, “how do I even start the conversation?” When those who are having a decline in health have spent their entire lives not only attending to their own daily needs, but also managing the daily needs of others, just starting the conversation is truly the hardest part. Giving up the ability to drive or cook for yourself isn’t just about not being able to do these things any longer, but in fact is about a much larger and scarier issue; losing independence. So, once you have chosen the time is right, be as direct as possible. It is highly likely your loved one will be in denial about needing care and help, which can also make the conversation difficult, so the more direct and honest you are as the caregiver will help ensure the conversation is not ignored. You should provide evidence of why you feel your loved one needs help and never make it about you as the caregiver: Point out the aimless wandering, forgetting to turn off the stove, forgetting to take medication and the personal dangers that come with these actions associated with their declining health, as opposed to focusing on your own stress and burnout as a caregiver.
If they say no at first, be patient but keep the dialogue going. This so important, especially if you are witnessing as a caregiver a continual decline in your loved one. While they may want to ignore the dialogue in conjunction with their evident decline, be persistent to continue the conversation. As much as you may want to resolve everything immediately, the reality is this will likely take some time and several conversations. Try to refrain from coming up with a resolution during the first conversation, for unless your parent is in immediate danger, it is okay a resolution is not met. It’s a process, not a once-and-done discussion. However, during the decline, that comes with the natural aging process, sometimes something dangerous or worrisome will occur unexpectedly. It will be at this time your loved one will either become willing or forced to address the situation at hand. If the conversation has already begun before this time, despite the resolution, the magnitude of stress both you and your loved one will experience when forced to make rapid decisions, will be less impactful.
It’s also important to make it clear to your loved one that they’re not a burden and you’re not trying pass off their care. Afterall, they spent many years caring not only for you, but many others in a multitude of ways. Caring for others as a parent, grandparent, boss, caregiver or mentor is what they know and have done their whole life. This very fact makes the thought of being cared for unknown, scary, depressing, and uncomfortable. So, always make the reoccurring theme in your conversations about wanting them to have the best options and lifestyle available as they navigate the aging process.
If possible, ask what they want from a facility, including location and amenities to get them involved in the decision, and as the conversation continues, be sure to ask as many questions as possible to show that you care about and support their quality of life during the aging process. There are a multitude of options to explore, and ultimately, they need to remain in charge of their decisions.
So, the good news on one of the most avoided conversations during the aging process? Once you start the conversation it does get easier to keep it going. Not only that, your loved one will enjoy the peace of mind of knowing they’re planning for their long-term care.
We exist to improve the lives of the people we touch, through a sophisticated health care system whose mission is fully to rehabilitate and restore each resident possible by providing the highest standards of care and individualized treatment. We recognize the continually changing needs of the population we serve, and we will adapt our services to provide optimal care and remain on the forefront of healthcare advancements. We hold ourselves accountable to the highest ethical standards, demonstrating honesty, integrity, professionalism, and sincerity. We will stay true to our promise to always act in the best interest of our resident, their families, and the community we serve. We are Curis Healthcare.