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Elder care conversations: How and when you should have “the talk” with your parents or grandparents

As long as we are in the child-rearing stages of life, our time and attention are largely focused on our kids and their needs. However, someday—perhaps sooner than we realize—we will also be involved in important decisions impacting the well-being of the generations before us—our parents and even our grandparents.

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For me, the term “elder care” is ripe with some pretty depressing connotations. I’m probably not the only one who has already had feelings of dread over the conversations I’ll need to have with my parents someday about taking away the car keys or thinking about assisted living. My successful, independent, proud and stubborn father is known to make jokes about things that he/we will deal with in his old age, but underneath the witty and teasing comments, we both know the reality will be no laughing matter.

I recently had the privilege to connect with Elite Care in Portland and, while they shared some staggering statistics with me, they also infused something into the topic of elder care that I can honestly say I haven’t felt before… HOPE. Hope for my loved ones to live their FULL lives to the fullest—even if they are among the growing statistics of those impacted by dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or other conditions requiring more care than family can typically provide.

Elite Care provided me with several tips for talking with family members about elder care. They are an organization that is transforming health and memory care services for the elderly in the Pacific Northwest, offering three metro area Extended Family Residences™ as an alternative to traditional long-term and memory care. They provide a very unique and personal approach to elder care that I found truly impressive! Here are their tips:

Don’t wait

The sooner you can begin talking with parents about future care needs, the better. More often though, families wait until a trauma has occurred before the conversation is sparked. The downfall to this approach is that likely the decision making and planning will be laced with anxiety, sadness and a sense of loss. To have the conversation in advance will allow for much more productive and thorough processes, optimizing resources and choice in all matters related to assisted care. What’s more, not addressing a loved one’s health matters can encourage self-neglect, illness and/or injury. Self-neglect is one of the most common reasons for ER visits and trauma in the elderly.

Listen

Create a date, time and atmosphere where your parent or grandparent will be encouraged to express themselves freely. Be prepared to listen. They may share some very personal fears about aging, and if that happens, show compassion first before trying to solve or dismiss their concerns.

Do your homework in advance

Learn about what types of communities and care environments are available before having the talk. Tour a couple of communities close to home, and know the right questions to ask. Put yourself in your loved one’s shoes. Consider meeting with a community relations counselor beforehand to get an understanding on what to expect prior to talking to your parents. Also, consider attending a family caregiver support group if you are interested in attaining a peer-to-peer perspective.

Those in the Portland area can also learn from a team of local experts about resources and solutions regarding care for your elderly loved one or for yourself. Elite Care PREP Panels offer an interactive, informal atmosphere to ask a variety of questions and get more information on the unique challenges faced by family caregivers.

Elder Care Oregon Washington

Photo Credit: Elite Care

Be a facilitator—not a director

Ideally, you want to act as your loved one’s assistant rather than the person “in charge.” Present yourself as someone who is merely facilitating matters that need to be addressed. This will help your family member to see that you are here with the goal to help them make sure all their needs (and wants) are being met and addressed.

Where to learn more

Most local hospitals or senior centers provide options and resources. Also, consider searching online for the closest aging & disabilities organization. Aging and Disabilities is usually federal or state funded, and supports family caregivers as well as the general aging population (check out these sites from Oregon and Washington).

No matter what point you are at related to these important decisions, Elite Care would love to welcome local families for an informational tour. Each Elite Care community features a culture that advocates life engagement, architecture that emphasizes familial gatherings and technology that promotes safety with autonomy. The result is a high-quality, meaningful life for residents, without regard to age, diagnosis or ability.

My own parents, both in their early to mid-sixties, are finally talking about retirement and what that might look like for them in the coming years. I hope that they will enjoy many active and independent years ahead. Still, a few injuries and surgeries in recent years have made me realize that it’s not too soon to prepare for and begin having discussions about how to help them live the best possible life during their golden years. Armed with the tips above, I feel a sense of preparedness and relief knowing that these conversations and decisions can be positive for all of us!

{Special thanks to Elite Care for partnering with Portland Moms Blog on this sponsored post to share this important information. All opinions are my own.}

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