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5 Tips to Start the Conversation of Late-Life Care

  • Apr 17, 2020
  • Meaghan Puglisi
  • 5-min Read

Did you know that many seniors are actually relieved to start talking about later stages of life and what kind of care they prefer? While it may feel there’s no right time to talk about these concerns, they are important conversations to have. 

“People don’t want to talk about ‘care,’ they want to focus on independence,” said Tanya Castillo, RN Case Manager. “Starting the conversation about when you may need to add guidance or ‘care’ doesn’t have to be difficult, it’s really a great opportunity to focus on the person and their life goals. Understanding what people want is about prevention and honoring choice. We’ve learned that many seniors want to have this conversation because it makes them feel secured that a plan is in place giving them, and you, peace of mind.” 

If anything changes in your loved one’s lifestyle or health, you’ll already be prepared to help them with next steps and ensure their wishes are being met. These tips are designed to help you start the conversation of late-life care with your older loved one.

Lead by example

Approaching conversations about late-life care don’t have to be difficult. Taking the initiative, leading by example, and setting the tone for the conversation can help your loved one feel more secure and in control of their health goals. 

Consider leading the conversation by talking about what would be most important for you in the later stages of your life. Talking about your own personal values and hopes will likely prompt your loved one to feel more comfortable exploring their own. 

Look for everyday examples to initiate the conversation 

Watching a movie together that deals with the subject of later life or perhaps reading an article can also help spark a conversation. Using these ideas as a prompt is a great way to ask your loved one their opinion on the subject and what types of care they would prefer. 

You could also talk to your loved one about their friends and other relatives who might also be going through late-life care. Perhaps they have a strong opinion on whether they would prefer a certain type of care or treatment or if maybe they would be opposed to another kind. 

Using everyday examples can help inspire both you and your loved one to think about what kinds of late-life care they prefer and which ones they don’t.  

Ask them about their personal life goals 

A great way to positively talk about late-life care is to focus on the personal life goals your loved one might want to achieve in the later stage of their life. It’s important to make sure your loved one feels heard. Perhaps your loved one really wants to attend a relative’s wedding, see their grandchild be born, or feel safer in their day-to-day life.

Having a good idea of what matters most to them helps you figure out how to steer the conversation to help determine what their priorities and goals may be for late-life care.  

Be patient 

For most people, tough conversations about death, end-of-life measures, and others can be difficult. These conversations can often feel intensely emotional. For that reason, it’s important to be patient and avoid trying to cover everything at once. 

It’s also better to start the late-life care conversation early to give your loved one time to consider their different options and preferences. Talking sooner rather than later means that if your loved one suddenly needs extra care, you’ll both already know what the next stage entails.

Try to break down the conversation into multiple stages to avoid overwhelming yourself or your loved one. Cover simple topics in each conversation and try to let your loved one take the lead.  It’s possible that your loved one might show emotion at some stage during the conversation, make sure to remain calm and offer reassurance when needed. 

Having patience while you both navigate these conversations can help everyone feel comfortable as you envision and document goals for late-life care. 

Find some additional support 

Enlisting the support from a third-party like a family doctor or a Lifesprk Life Care Manager can be reassuring and helpful but it can also take the burden off of you to facilitate these tough conversations. 

A doctor or health professional can help you plan ahead based on any health conditions or illnesses your loved one might be experiencing and share with you potential plans or scenarios you might expect as they progress. This will help guide you and give you a clear picture of what late-life care needs your relative may have down the road so you can plan.

You can also talk with one of our experienced Life Care Managers about the many different options available to your loved one to keep them healthy and independent longer without losing sight of their personal goals. Ask your Life Care Manager about senior communities, live-in care, senior housing options or in-home care.

Asking questions and clearing up any misconceptions will make you more informed so you can share accurate information with loved ones. Getting acquainted with available late-life care options alongside a professional will help you and your loved ones feel more comfortable. 

Speaking with professionals with years of experience in having these types of late-life care conversations will help both you and your loved one feel supported and knowledgeable. 

While starting the conversation of late-life care can seem difficult at first, preparing properly with these tips will help you approach the subject with your loved one. Our Life Care Managers are always happy to help both you and your loved one talk about late life care, creating a detailed plan to accommodate your loved one’s individual needs. 

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