Big Answers to Tough Questions
Many of my articles in the past have dealt with planning. If I had to say what I think is the biggest mistake that families make, I would say that not proactively talking and planning for the challenges of aging would be the biggest one. These are tender, challenging conversations and they deserve all the time you can give them. And lord knows they do take time, courage and persistence. Some days you will be ready to talk and your family member will not be. Other days they will want to talk to you and you won’t be able to listen. So it takes time.
The reason that these conversations are so important is knowing in advance what your family member wants gives both of you the space to just be. What a shame it would be if their last days passed without your full presence because you were still trying to figure out the facts and pull together resources. The greatest gift we can give the people we love is our full attention. Planning and talking in advance, let’s you be in the moment when it counts.
All this said, the gathering of information and planning is not something you can completely do yourself. It requires the participation and cooperation of your family member. If your family member chooses not to discuss these tough topics then at least come to your own conclusions about how you would act as you consider their values and the way they have lived their lives.
Here are what I consider to be the top five questions to either have an answer to or to make peace in your own mind of what you will do when you have to answer these questions for a family member.
If you couldn’t live at home for a time, where would you want to live? If the answer to this question is that your family member would like to live with you then begin thinking about how this will really work. Do you have enough space? What ground rules would you set? Is this decision ok with other members of your household?
Have you prepared estate documents such as a will or living trust, an advanced health care directive and a financial power of attorney? Who have you appointed to the roles of health care agent, financial agent and executor or successor trustee and where are your documents stored?
What are the things and people that make life worth living for you? What must be a part of your life? (just to give you an idea, I would answer this question by saying..Being able to visit with friends and family or having them visit me; having daily access to animals preferably cats; being able to go outside into the fresh air; having a daily shower or bath; having an open window or a fan in my room; eating chocolate.)
Are there medical interventions that you would or would not want? Under what circumstances would you make these decisions? Encourage your family member to include this information in as much detail as possible in their Advanced Health Care Directive. What is your ideal death? (Whew, I guess you can see why it takes time to get these answers). When discussing end of life issues, it can be really useful to use other people’s situation to open the discussion.
How much money have you set aside for your care? Do you have long term care insurance? Be sure to interject current knowledge about prices for elder care in your area so this is a realistic conversation.
Take your time and be patient to get the answers to these questions. Knowledge gives you the peace of mind to do your best.
My Inspiration for Eldercare Coaching
For many years, I’ve told people that my mother, Eva was the inspiration for starting “The Eldercare Coach”. Certainly her struggle with Alzheimer’s disease provided the container into which my business was born.
My mother’s most passionate advocate was my father, Charles. Now that he has died, I can see more clearly than ever that my life’s work is serving passionate caregivers everywhere. People like my dad who fight the good fight every day to make sure that the person they love is well cared for, safe and treated with dignity. It was his honor to care for his beloved Eva as it was my honor to care for him during his last, mercifully brief illness.
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