Regardless of your specific caregiving situation, you’re likely to engage in many challenging conversations with those you care for, as well as with other family members. You’ll need to discuss topics like finances, legal issues, estate planning, living situations, care and treatment plans, safety and driving. These are sensitive subjects, and your perspectives or opinions may differ. As a longtime caregiver, I have had many of these discussions with my grandparents, parents, sisters and other family members over the years. Here are some of my tips to help make these conversations easier.
1. Talk early and often.
The more you’ve discussed and planned for the future, the easier it will be when it is time to make decisions. Talk early because it's easier to discuss matters when they are in the future or hypothetical, instead of imminent. Also, the last thing you want to do is struggle to have critical conversations in the middle of a crisis.
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Talk often because we never know when our loved ones’ wishes will change or the situation will shift due to alterations in health, finances or housing, for example. We need to be aware of our loved ones’ current wishes and ensure that plans made years ago are still viable.
2. Observe and do your homework before you act.
If you are suggesting a change for your loved ones, spend time with them observing and gathering accurate, specific information about your concerns before you even begin a conversation. If you want to talk about driving, ride along first to make valid observations. Worried about their safety at home? Stay with them for a few days to get a real sense of the situation. Is the mail piling up? Are they having trouble navigating stairs? Are they able to prepare healthy meals? Talk with the people who see them regularly and try to be objective.