November 27, 2015
We need to talk.
That distressing statement – uttered by the boss, your significant other, a best friend or a relative – is enough to make your stomach churn.
And when you're the one delivering the ultimatum – especially when it involves your parents - it's tempting to reach for the Rolaids.
They don't want to discuss – much less think about - life-or-death issues. DNR? POA? What kind of alphabet soup is that, they'll demand. Remember, they've been giving you advice for years and turning the tables isn't easy for them.
But it's imperative that we talk to our parents – whether it's to find out their wishes in a health crisis or to let them know, as gently as possible, that they need help now.
But just what are those disquieting incidents signalling that help is needed?
According to agingcare.com, they include: missing important appointments, trouble getting up from a seated position, difficulty with walking, balance and mobility, uncertainty and confusion when performing once-familiar tasks, forgetfulness, stacks of unopened mail or an overflowing mailbox, poor diet or weight loss, forgetting to take medications or taking more than the prescribed dosage.
Now, for the hard part: Initiating this emotional discussion. Remember, timing is everything so choose wisely (a holiday party is probably not the best time to broach the subject).
The topic is so important that AARP has prepared a special guide. Here's some of the advice it contains:
Be very straightforward with the facts. Do not hide negative information, but also be sure to acknowledge and build on family strengths. "As time goes on, it might be difficult to stay in this house because of all the stairs, but you have other options. Let's talk about what those might be."
Approach the conversation with an attitude of listening not telling. "Dad, have you thought about what you want to do if you needed more help?" as opposed to "We really need to talk about a plan if you get sick."
Make references to yourself and your own thoughts about what you want for the future. Let them know that they are not alone; that everyone will have to make these decisions. "Look, I know this isn't fun to think about or talk about, but I really want to know what's important to you. I'm going to do the same thing for myself."
Phrase your concerns as questions, letting your loved ones draw conclusions and make the choices. "Mom, do you think you might want a hand with some of the housekeeping or shopping?"
And don't forget to discuss personal emergency response systems
. It will allow them the independence they crave – and let you sleep well at night knowing they are safe. One push of a button from their wrist watch, pendant, or base station will summon help.
Let the conversation begin. Rolaids are optional.