“Just in Case” Conversations

Posted by on Jun 26, 2012 in Planning, Safety Concerns, Sensitive Conversations |

If your summer travel plans include a long-distance visit with aging parents, why not use the opportunity to do some “just in case” planning? 

The relaxed pace of summer may offer a friendly environment in which to reflect and plan ahead. Also, being face-to-face may allow you to accomplish more than planning from a distance.

Here are five tips for getting started, whether you are travelling across town or across the country!
1. Take note of warning signs that your parents may not be coping as well as before. Check for changes in these 4H’s: health, hygiene, housekeeping, and hazards around the house, as well as other areas where they are getting or needing more help.
Share your observations about changes, but resist the immediate impulse to offer your solutions.  Listen and reflect before responding.
2. Start or continue conversations about sensitive subjects: framing these discussions as being of help to you may make them seem less intrusive to your parents. Also, give advance notice that you wish to talk about these topics. Allow everyone some opportunity to reflect and prepare when discussing important matters.
What are the “must-discuss” topics? Top of the list is whether your parents’ powers of attorney for finances and health careare in place or have been updated. Where are the other important documents that might be needed “if something happens”?
Finances may also be on your radar – a gentle conversation-opener can be asking whether there is anything you need to know about your parents’ finances as you do your own financial retirement planning.
Your parents’ living arrangements may be fine for now – but what happens if their health takes a sudden turn for the worse? A “health emergency plan”is a good tool for all families to have, but especially where families live hours apart.
Next, find out if your parents are familiar with seniors’ services in their community. Larger centres have dedicated seniors’ resource offices; in smaller communities, you may have to start with the local public health unit.
3. As a family, research and visit some nearby assisted living and long-term care homes. Everyone’s health may be good now, but things can change quickly. If a health crisis happens, and your parent cannot safely return to live at home, knowing which care homes they prefer can be a boon at times of illness and stress. Remember, these properties are for those who need medical oversight and personal care. You can explore other “downsizing” options, such as condos and retirement residences, too.
4. Get acquainted with your parents’ neighbors and the group of close friends who looks out for each other. Having a local contact can help ease your worries or check on parents’ well-being if you cannot contact them.
5. During this time, keep things in perspective. Manage your emotions and expectations. This type of forward planning is not an “all-business” project; rather, it’s a process that involves reflection, patience and building trust.
You can expect resistance to change, even denial, along the way. Emotions may consume more energy than performing the tasks at hand. You may have to deal with old relationship dynamics and alter some established behaviour patterns before you can move forward.  
Taken all together, this tip list may seem daunting. But it’s still best to get started now, before a crisis happens. Take one step at a time, commit to the next step, and steadily build towards a solid plan for that “just in case” someday.
Get started or re-started this summer!
© ElderWise Inc., 2012



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