Whether you’re dealing with the challenges of being a caregiver today or anticipating being a caregiver tomorrow, having tough end-of-life conversations prior to times of crisis can make all the difference for both you and your loved one. Initiating an open, honest dialogue early on gives your loved one more control over their own future. It allows you to create a collaborative plan that can lessen strain on your relationship and ease emotional, physical and financial stresses of care-giving. Having a plan in place also minimizes the guilt and uncertainty of having to make those important decisions for your loved one once they no longer can.
While such conversations can be difficult to face, they ultimately ensure a more comfortable end-of-life transition for your loved one and help both of you cope with the inevitability of loss. Having tough talks is never easy and getting started is often the hardest step. The following tips can help make end-of-life conversations less daunting and allow you and your loved one to better prepare for the future.
1. Use natural, relatable conversation openers.
Beginning end-of-life conversations is often half the battle. It may be easiest to work off of a more natural or common conversation, such as while you’re scheduling annual medical checkups, watching a related scene from a TV show, or referencing a recent article about aging. These can serve as seg-ways into more serious discussions that make it feel less like you’re bombarding your loved one. You can bring up a friend’s parents who are facing a similar situation or mention that you too will one day have to prepare for the end of life. Whichever way you choose to begin the discussion, remind them that they are not alone.
2. Start small.
Have you ever had so many things on your to do list that you put off doing all of it? Aging and end-of-life conversations come with a number of important decisions, each of which is accompanied by a range of difficult emotions. Starting with the big picture can overwhelm your loved one, making them more inclined to put off the conversation. Ease into it by starting with their main concerns. Ask them what their priorities are as they age. Do they worry most about aging in their own home? Are they concerned with staying independent for as long as possible? Is their priority spending time with family and friends or staying healthy and active? Encouraging them to talk about how they see their future serves as a great starting point around which to build a plan of action.
3. Listen and respect their needs.
The main benefit of having a discussion while your loved one is still healthy and capable is that they get to decide what happens to them. So take advantage of the opportunity to discover their needs. Remember that while your loved one may need your help, he or she is still an adult. Rather than telling them what they need, ask them. It can be difficult enough to acknowledge the loss of independence. They will be much more receptive to an open dialogue in which they feel in control of their own future. Above all, make sure that they feel their viewpoints are being heard and that their feelings are being respected.
4. Give them time.
Difficult conversations can often be met with denial or defensiveness. Give them space and time to process the issue. They may need time to let your concerns sink in or to face their own feelings and fears about the future. Try not to take their reaction personally and think about how you might feel if you were in their shoes. Showing empathy and acknowledging their need for time to process can demonstrate that you’re on their side and make future conversations easier. Planning ahead allows end-of-life conversations to be an ongoing discussion, conducted in whatever way makes both parties more comfortable. Just because you do not arrive at a final decision right away does not mean that the conversation was not a success. It will take time – and that’s okay.
5. End with the positive.
Thank your loved one for listening to your concerns and remind them that you’re in this together. Plan a fun activity for both of you to help you bounce back from such a serious conversation, whether it’s a dinner with family or simply watching a favorite movie. This can emphasize your willingness to break the conversation into more manageable parts and lessens any tension that broaching the subject may have caused between you. You’ve made an important step and rather than over-analyzing and dwelling on the tough topics, you deserve to celebrate any amount of progress that you’ve just made.
The earlier you plan for the future, the easier it will be on both you and your loved one. Think of these conversations as a way of enriching your loved one’s end-of-life experience, rather than a burden. No matter how you approach the tough conversations, doing so before times of crisis will make care-giving an easier and more rewarding experience.
A daily check-in call could be the lifeline, the joy you give someone that makes the biggest difference in their perception of what old age is like.
Contact me at 317-480-1038 today. Let’s make a difference together.
I’m Diana Beam, Founder of Keeping in Touch Solutions. It is my heartfelt desire for every person to live a happy and healthy life in the place they call home, no matter what their age. You can’t put a price on peace of mind for your parents and yourself. It’s priceless . . . and significant.
For that reason, the goal of every Keeping In Touch Solutions program is to provide a caring connection and service that both the elderly and their caregivers can rely on to make living that good life easier.
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