Parents have many important talks with their children throughout their lives. But it can be a strange and daunting feeling when the tables are turned and an adult child needs to initiate a conversation about care.
Oftentimes, the older parents don’t see (or admit to) the need for in-home care, or that it is time to move into an independent- or assisted-living facility. In addition, siblings can have very different ideas about what needs to be done, and if they live in a different town, they may not see the whole picture of how the parents are doing.
Squabbling with older parents or siblings over the need for care isn’t the answer. And going it alone can be challenging and frustrating. What should you do?
Do initiate the talk
Talk to your older parents about their current health issues, daily caregiving needs, and financial concerns. To get the conversation started, ask questions like how comfortable they feel driving, what their health insurance covers if they have a will or a health care proxy, and whether they can still access community services.
Do seek help from outside the family
One vital first step is to enlist the assistance of a care manager to help the family make decisions going forward. Qualified care managers have the best interests of their clients at heart and can help connect families to services for the best possible outcome. They can have a calming effect and bring impartiality to the situation.
Do invite out-of-town siblings to see the situation firsthand
If siblings are living in a different town, they may not get to see the whole picture of how the parents are doing. Older parents can easily cover up their day-to-day issues when talking on the telephone or chatting through email, especially if dementia or other conditions aren’t readily apparent.
Do have a family meeting with the care manager
Care managers can help discern the main issues, whether social, financial, medical, or legal, and help map out the next steps for services. They also can help manage the whole situation after gathering input from everyone involved.
Do review recommendations carefully
Following the meeting, carefully review the suggestions of the care manager and openly discuss the options for what the family can do. What services are needed for your parents, how much will they cost, and how will they be paid for?
Do hold a follow-up meeting
A quality care manager will determine the strengths of individual family members and what each one can bring to the table, whether it’s resources, time or expertise. For example, one sibling might be better equipped to take care of their parents’ bills, while another would prefer to check prices for various services.
Do not hire just any care manager
Take the time to select the right care manager who can structure his or her role to the needs of your family. Be sure to do your homework on different agencies and conduct a thorough hiring process. A care manager can be brought in on a private-pay basis, typically sharing the cost with the rest of the family.
Do not assume you know your sibling’s motivation
Siblings may be reluctant to make the trip to visit their parents because they don’t believe there’s any issue. They may also simply not believe a sibling because of deeper-rooted relationship issues. Educating siblings about the situation is a big piece of the puzzle.
Do not simply pick the first option given
Professional care managers will provide a range of short-term and long-term options tailored to your parents’ and your family’s needs. When exploring assisted living and independent living facilities, gather information and tour facilities so when the time comes it isn’t a crisis.
Do not assume everyone understands the options
The many facets of care, from housing options to financing and developing a care plan, are complex. It can take time for everyone in the family to understand all the information.
Do not carry the burden yourself
Caring for older parents can be overwhelming, with all the decisions that need to be made and the time needed to devote to the process. Sharing the tasks with siblings and other family members and relying on a professional care manager can help make it easier to handle.
Once out-of-town siblings go back home, keep them involved as much as possible. For example, you can include them in subsequent care manager meetings remotely by telephone or video conference.