Care Plans: How to start the discussion with an older loved one

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As the people in our lives who we care for start to get older in age, there are a number of things you need to think about. One of the toughest things to face is initiating discussions of how your older loved one will be cared for as they enter this stage of their lives. This article is designed to help you start that all important conversation in a meaningful way and to think of the options available to you.

1. Look out for the signs

Be sure to observe your elderly loved one for as long as you can. This will help you, later on, to know which care option will be the most suitable for them. If they’ve only just shown signs of minor difficulties doing certain daily tasks like maintaining the house or going shopping every week for essentials, then perhaps all they need is someone to help them in their own home.

On the other hand, if you notice them struggling to do most daily tasks, their health is declining or they’ve lost a lot of weight recently then perhaps a Nursing Home is the better option.

Whatever you decide, do your research on the options out there. In this way, when you begin the discussion you have a better idea of what is possible or suitable for your relative.

2. Familiarise yourself with all options available

Contrary to common belief, as we age it doesn’t always mean that a residential Nursing Home is the only option out there. With the population of elderly people rapidly growing, there are various care options out there that you should familiarise yourself with.

For some people, a Nursing Home is the most appropriate option and it does offer the most peace of mind if your relative is not fully capable of living alone anymore and would benefit most from 24-hour care. If your parent also has a specific care requirement, such as dementia or Alzheimer's, many Nursing Homes have specific care plans and facilities set in place to help optimize their quality of life.

However, if your loved one hasn’t yet reached that stage of care requirement, but still needs a little help doing daily tasks and would like to maintain as much independence as they can for as long as possible, there are many other routes you can take.

Many nursing homes now offer Assisted Living. In this way, your relative can live on the grounds of the nursing home with the care there when they need it, but they are free to live as independently as they can. Assisted Living accommodation usually consists of a private apartment or bungalow with all the facilities they need to look after themselves on a daily basis, but with the reassurance that help is always close by should and when they need it.

If your parents wish to stay at home, there’s also the option of In-Home Care. This is great if your loved one would rather be surrounded by a familiar environment. For some, it’s important to be around their personal belongings in order to feel safe and relaxed. You can contact companies which provide carers to come to their house. The level of care required depends on the needs of your relative, but there are many options available. You can have someone pop round once a week just to help with the cleaning or shopping, on a daily basis to cook meals or just provide some company, and 24-hour care should they need someone with them at all times.

Another option that could be considered is for your parent to live with you in Your Home. Of course, this option would have to be carefully considered before saying it to your parents and your home will have to be able to provide an adequate space for them to be looked after in. Things like wheelchair access and appropriate bathrooms and beds would have to be thought about. As your parents continue to age, their needs become greater.

If you do decide to go down this route, make sure you can care for them on a long-term basis as a second change in living conditions could provide further stress. In saying that, the opportunity to have your parents around you as they enter their last years of life is a time to be cherished forever. You can be sure that they are getting the care they need and that you’re spending as much precious time with them as you can.

If you do decide to have your parent stay with you, Nursing Homes also offer short-term stay, in the form of Respite Care, for those who need a rest from their daily life and also to give full-time carers a break. Most Nursing Homes offer this option and it can be a real Godsend if you have decided to be your relatives primary carer.

3. Listening is Key

Most importantly, listen to your parents! Don’t have them feeling that they’re being forced into doing something just because it’s convenient for everyone else... that you have no time for them or you don’t want to give up your life to look after them.

The main aim of this conversation is to talk about what THEY need; the care plan that’s most suitable for them, what their physical, emotional and social needs are. From there, you can all start to think of the best way to help your parents live their lives as comfortably as possible whilst also giving you peace of mind that they will be looked after in all aspects of their life.

4. Be mindful of how they’re feeling

As you approach the subject of changing lifestyle, try to be as empathetic as possible. This will be a huge change for your parents. They’ve lived their lives independently for many years and all of a sudden someone else is in charge. Try to honour they’re wishes as much as possible and choose a plan that suits them both in terms of care and what is financially possible.

5. Don’t rush it!

Although you may think that one conversation with all the family together will be enough, do be prepared to have more than a few chats about the options available to you. It’s more than likely that the first time you mention a care plan to your elderly parent, that it will be dismissed.

Know that they themselves may be finding it difficult to come to terms with the fact that they can’t live completely independent anymore. Start off by planting a seed. Don’t bombard your loved one with all the information at once. First suggest the idea and later on discuss the options in detail, going through the advantages and disadvantages of each care plan.

6. Choose your moment carefully

In order to begin the discussion of redirecting the life path of your elderly parents, you need to approach the subject in a calm and comfortable manner. It’s no use barging in with ideas and changes to no avail. You and your parents have to be sure that the best thing is being done for everyone involved.

If you have other siblings, it’s always a great idea to have a discussion amongst yourselves to help set out what you want to say to your parents ahead of time. Even down to deciding who will lead the discussion or talk about different topics. In this way, the already hard enough conversation will be much calmer instead of having everyone talking over each other trying to stick their oar in! If your parents see that you’re all comfortable and relaxed, the whole conversation should go that bit smoother.

7. Be as Prepared as Possible

If you are faced with an emergency and need to act sooner rather than later, then the best practice is to be prepared. Even if your parent doesn’t need full time care right now, it could be a strong possibility in the future. And as we all know, life can be unexpected at times. So if you already have the bones of a plan in place, it can save you a lot of hassle in the long run. Get together a folder with all the essential information you have to hand. Things like marriage certificates, medical records, asset records and life insurance policies should all be kept together. As you organise your folder of documents you can also see what you need to get your hands on when the time arises.

Although it’s easier said than done at times, being prepared really is key to avoiding as much stress as possible. If you’re here reading this article, then you’ve already made the first step in thinking about what your parents need now or in the future, and that’s a great start!

Whichever you route you do decide to go down, be sure that it’s something that suits everyone. Remember that it’s not an easy time for anyone involved and as long as you keep the line of communication open with your relative and listen to each other in a calm and meaningful way, a solution can be reached. Know that there are many different options available to you, do your research and never feel pigeonholed into one route.

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