Look online and you can find all kinds of advice on how to talk with your parents about their long term care. What you don’t find much about is how to get your siblings on board with opening the discussion. While the process may be viewed as daunting, it’s important to circle the family. Getting everyone involved can help to define roles and preserve relationships. Here are some tips to overcome common challenges families encounter.
Even if you and your siblings get along famously as adults, there’s nothing like the stress of a major life change or a health crisis with mom or dad to introduce tension or lead to additional strain on family members.
Differing communication styles, a myriad of emotions, and conflicting viewpoints can make the topic of senior living or plans for long term care one that’s uncomfortable to address. So open the discussion early. Don’t want for a family crisis to arise to prompt the need to talk. Then open your ears to hear the goals, cares, fears, feelings and wishes that seem to matter most.
Start with the Goal
Keeping your eye on the goal can help everyone to stay focused. Each family’s situation is unique, but in general your goals may include:
- Keeping mom or dad safe, healthy and as independent as possible while maintaining their dignity.
- To come together as a team putting each person’s strengths to use in implementing practical solutions.
- To stay united with each other, and your parents, even in the face of stress and potential misunderstandings.
Schedule a Family Meeting
A family meeting offers a forum for open communication. Invite all siblings, spouses and other relatives who will be affected – and include your parent! Whether it’s conflicting opinions or thoughts or ideas you haven’t considered, everyone should feel valued and heard to foster a spirit of collaboration in the decisions ahead.
What’s more, make sure distance doesn’t inhibit participation from family members. It may be hard for some who live far away to attend in person so providing options such as Zoom, Skype or even FaceTime ensures they are included.
As you select time, consider when you are all as free of distractions, pending appointments or to-dos as possible to allow the discussions to flow without rush.
It’s also helpful to write down talking points about why it’s time to consider senior living to guide discussion and so you remember important questions, particularly if you’re the one facilitating the meeting.
These dos and don’ts certainly apply to the family meeting, but they can help at any point in the process. Remember not to think of this as just one talk about senior living, rather a series of open conversations about the future.
- Show empathy and patience. While you’re experiencing a range of emotions, your parents are too. Common fears include: loss of independence, declining health, running out of money, being isolated, having to depend on others and becoming incapacitated. Take these fears to heart.
- Make sure to keep the tone casual and positive, asking questions about your parent’s needs and wants for the future. Also have them share their questions and concerns about senior living – have all family members do the same!
- Educate on what senior living really is today. There are many myths, but the reality is that senior living now offers different levels of care to support specific needs, an environment that fosters independence, a worry-free lifestyle and abundant social opportunities to start.
- Dictate a plan to mom or dad or your family members. You’re trying to create an ongoing, honest discussion about their future so they should be included in all aspects of the process.
- Parent your parent. Share your concerns, but regardless of how the tables may be turning, it’s important they feel respected and heard as your parent.
- Feed the fear. It’s important to guide the conversation around your concerns, but in a way that you’re collaborating together to help mom or dad live their best life, not scaring them into a move.
If All Else Fails
After a good faith effort, if you and your family can’t come together it might be time to enlist the help of a neutral third party. Consult with a professional such as mom or dad’s physician, a case manager, social worker, lawyer, financial advisor or even a therapist or spiritual leader to help resolve your differences regarding senior living.
Although it may be challenging if the end result is a better quality of life for mom or dad then it’s all worth it. But certainly a bonus if coming to this decision about senior living ends up bringing everyone closer together!
For more information on how to get everyone on board with senior living, check out our Family Decision Guide!