When is the Best Time to Start?
Now, of course! Knowing that a family elder may benefit from additional support can become clear suddenly, perhaps as the result of a specific event, or may be a gradual realization, as the subtle clues of diminished life pleasure and fragile health add up. But it cannot hurt to be prepared and have some of the groundwork laid and know how your family feels about many potentially tricky issues that would be better not tackled in a rush.
So, talk early, and talk often.
Here are some of the basic signs that increased support might be helpful:
- A home and yard not as tidy as you would expect
- Unkempt personal appearance
- Scarcity of food items or unhealthy foods
- Missed appointments
- Bills unpaid
- Rash monetary decisions
- Loss of interest in traditional hobbies and no new ones
- No interest in friendships or other social connections
Start with Possibilities
Aging creates opportunities. There’s little need to begin a discussion about senior living options with the premise that a change in a living situation must involve loss and limitation, as much as a loss may very well be the precipitating factor in the changed circumstances. Researching senior care options and understanding their relative strengths and limitations, as well as how various aspects of each may be blended for optimal results, means that discussion about change may begin as a discussion about choice.
Don’t hesitate to get outside support
This is a time of significant change and seeking the counsel of someone who has personal or professional experience with senior living opportunities may be of great help in making decisions and avoiding common mistakes. Your family may want to confer with an outside expert on your own before starting the dialog or discuss if it would be ok to include that person in your talks. Having someone from the ‘outside’ also may diffuse some of the tension that can accompany discussions about upcoming change.
Pick the Right Moment
As pressing as it may seem to begin discussions about the future after becoming aware of some triggering event or pattern, be sure to pick a moment that will not add additional stress. Do not blind side anyone. A large family gathering is probably not the place. Consider scheduling a special time to talk. Ask and discuss when and where would be good for all parties. Remember, this is a decision you will be making together and continuing talk is vital for its success. It might be useful to set up a recurring time to talk about upcoming decisions and let the rest of your time together be free of the topic.
Make it a Dialog
It is unlikely that the changes in behavior and lifestyle that have begun to be noticed by one member of a family will not have been noticed by other members, even if these changes have not been acknowledged. Make sure to ask questions that will help all realize how the elder has been experiencing and perceiving his or her own process of aging. Be willing to follow that lead. With such an open dialog, there will likely be some surprises for your family that will help you be a good partners to your loved one and each other throughout this time of change. Listen.