When It’s Time for ‘The Talk’

Bayshore | | Caregiver Support

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There are several milestones in our lives that are accompanied with a special talk or conversation. These informal talks are delivered with solemnity, sometimes with humour, almost always with affection and occasionally with nervousness. They occur at the cusp of change that symbolizes transition – perhaps in maturity or level of responsibility and sometimes because of changing needs.

You may have received sage advice at your graduation as your parents recognized you were about to embark on a new life as a young adult; at your wedding where the union of two people often prompts relationship advice; or at the birth of a child, when friends and family may share child-rearing tips. These events bring about a dispensing of knowledge, a sharing of past experience and the intent is almost always well-meaning. Our life passages are often measured by these poignant moments.

There is a talk, however, the subject of which no one wants to be on either the delivery or the receiving end. This is the discussion about how we’d like to see our senior years roll out in terms of accommodation, responsibility, finances and health and wellness. It is inevitable that as our parents age and the potential for challenges increases, there will be a need to talk about anticipated outcomes in the event of changes in their own affairs, health and safety.

Having The Talk, in contrast to many other milestone discussions, is often thought of as a step towards removing someone else’s sense of independence. In fact, it is the opposite. It allows your parents to have an active role in shaping how they wish to live out their senior years. It is about being proactive instead of reactive. It is about having a plan instead of facing a crisis.

For the adult child, or caregiver, The Talk enables open discussion about supporting a parent’s wishes while being realistic as to what capacity family members can offer support. No one likes to use the word “burden” or be fraught with anxiety in a crisis situation. The Talk enables all involved family members to acquire an understanding of the rationale leading to decisions and, for the parent, provides a sense of comfort in knowing that their family will be equipped to deliver on their wishes. It is a collective understanding of the roles and responsibilities in seeing a plan through.

The best environment for a talk of this nature is, ideally, before an emergency situation or crisis presents itself. Emotions may run high, and that is to be expected, but everyone needs to feel as comfortable as possible. Ideally, there is preliminary discussion about getting together to have The Talk, so that everyone can get their thoughts in order, to the best of their ability.

So how do you get started?

Here are some tips on how to prepare for the conversation and suggestions in terms of content to discuss:

  1. Pick a neutral, comfortable location. A lot of personal information will be discussed so don’t pick a public location. Emotions may become heightened, as well, so a home setting may be the most comfortable.
  2. Work together. Invite immediate, applicable family members so that everyone is on the same page.
  3. Stress that your role is as an advocate. The steps you are taking together will ultimately bring peace-of-mind to your parents as well as other family members. Being proactive ensures that their wishes are honoured and, in the event that your parents can no longer make decisions, appointed family members can make those decisions in good conscience.
  4. Identify concerns. If you’ve noticed that your parents are currently experiencing challenges in daily living, let them know. Discuss options, share your concerns and then be strong and supportive when suggesting solutions. Ensure that you are listening to their preferences.
  5. Ask them how they’re doing. Are they okay with driving? What about upkeep of the house? Are they taking care of themselves?
  6. Discuss their future lifestyle wishes and, ultimately, how they see their end-of-life choices unfolding. It is best to have their wishes known beforehand versus reacting in a critical situation.
  7.  Ensure clarity. Make sure that everyone understands next steps so that the conversation continues and solutions or outcomes are either further investigated or implemented.

Topics to discuss:

  1. Do your homework. Identify all the documents you’ll need as part of the discussion. Here is a list to get you started:
    • Power of Attorney form
    • Insurance policy information (life, home, health)
    • Vital records (marriage license, birth certificates and health card)
    • Banking information
    • Ownership (home, cottage, vehicles)
    • Executor form (for a will)
    • Veteran’s documentation (if applicable)
    • Advanced Directive (living will)
    • List of medications
    • Organ donor card (if applicable)
  2. Discuss home care, long term care and retirement living. How do your parents envision living out their senior years and, in the event of illness, what are their expectations for care?
  3. Finances. Are they paying the bills? How are they managing their money?
  4. Health. Are they following up on appointments and taking medications according to directions? Any recent emergencies? Are the exercising?
  5. Cognition. Are they able to get out and about? Carry on conversations? Good judgement? Mood? Sleeping well? Socializing?
  6. Mental health. Good coping mechanisms? Depressed? Forgetful?
  7. Daily life. Are your parents still able to groom and bath themselves? Are they still OK dressing themselves? Any toileting issues? Are they eating a balanced diet?

The Talk is an opening for everyone to take stock of their own current health and wellness as well as future retirement goals and end-of-life care.

The demands of caregiving can be overwhelming. We offer free in-home consultations for both our Home Health Care Services.