It can be difficult to start a conversation with a loved one about aging and the care they will need in the future. If you are feeling overwhelmed or unsure of how to begin, remember that there are many different approaches you can take. Consider the options below and choose the one that is most comfortable for you:
- Be specific. If you think your loved one may be overwhelmed with broad questions about their health or the future, try starting small. You might ask, “How often do you go to the grocery store?” or “Is it hard to bring in groceries?” The answers to these simple but specific questions can help you determine if your loved one may be having more trouble than normal. A comment about difficulty holding plastic grocery bags, for example, could indicate an arthritis flare-up.
- Start by talking about others. Many people who are uncomfortable talking about their own needs or concerns may have an easier time speaking about others. Rather than asking your loved one about his or her own wishes for the future, start a conversation about how they felt when caring for their own aging parent or relative. Ask about that experience, and what they might have wanted to change or improve. Talking about aging from a less personal perspective may help them recognize and share their own desires or fears.
- Be honest. There will be times when being direct is best, and in doing so, start by speaking honestly about your own feelings. Expressing yourself may encourage that same openness from your loved one. You might, for example, explain that you are worried you won’t have the right information to make decisions on their behalf in the future. This puts the focus on you, rather than them.
You can find more conversation tips here on careconversations.org.
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