These suggestions will guide one of the most important conversations you’ll have.
When it comes to a talking about long term care, it’s natural to feel anxious and unsure. The following tips will help you prepare for this important conversation:
Talk in person
This is a conversation that’s best had face-to-face. Carve out an unpressured time with your loved one(s) to talk openly and honestly. If distance is a factor, consider using something like Skype or FaceTime so you can see each other’s faces while you talk. Since this is a sensitive topic, it’s important to to read facial cues and adjust your approach, if needed.
Bring your sense of humor
While this topic can be serious, your approach doesn’t have to be. Think of times you’ve had conversations about other difficult topics and use any ways that may have worked in the past to put them at ease. A relaxed demeanor and a shared laugh can go a long way toward helping the conversation flow.
Hear your loved ones out out when they discuss their plans and feelings around long term care and ask questions. Listen closely to their answers, and share your own thoughts in an open and respectful manner. Even if the answers aren’t what you want to hear, it’s important that you hear them through.
Go with the flow
While you may have a mental checklist of all the topics you would like to cover, stay focused and really listen. You may learn something new or unexpected along the way. Most importantly, following where the conversation leads can give you a deeper understanding of your loved one(s) and what their wishes for the future are.
Give this important conversation the time it needs; there will likely be a lot of back-and-forth which will take time and energy to get through. Scheduling the conversation at a when there aren’t time constraints will help alleviate a lot of pressure for all involved.
If this is your first time discussing this topic, focus more on the feeling and the emotions around the subject. Avoid bringing up too many statistics or actively filling out forms. That can be overwhelming, especially for an initial conversation.
Make decisions beforehand
Your loved ones need time to process information and research any additional questions they might have. If you seem to have made all the decisions for them without their input, it can be demeaning and make them feel like their wishes and preferences don’t matter. Acting on decisions made during the talk can be much easier when those decisions are made by the whole family together.
Discuss when emotions are heated
If you sense there is tension before the initial conversation, reschedule the talk for another day. If you notice tensions rising during the conversation, take a break and pick it up another day. It may be helpful to create a common goal as a family unit, and come back to that goal if emotions start to run high.
Assume old roles
Old family roles and habits can sometimes make this talk more difficult. Try a more objective approach, as if you were having this conversation with a more casual acquaintance. Asking questions and listening without interrupting can help keep the conversation respectful and mature.
Push your choices
Resist the temptation to force your preferences on your loved ones unless there is a health or safety risk involved. Otherwise, it’s important that they are empowered to make their own decisions about how they want to life out their life.
By having an open and honest conversation with your loved one(s) about long term care, you can create a plan together that will allow them to live life on their terms.