Having conversations about end of life care is difficult at any age, but for seniors, it can be especially difficult. Facing your mortality is challenging emotionally, mentally and even physically.
However, as a caregiver, you know that these conversations are necessary. Eager to connect with a senior loved one on their preferences for end of life arrangements but don’t know how? Here are a few ways to make the conversation smooth, simple and successful.
Moving Into an Assisted Living Community
Knowing how your loved one prefers to live out their golden years can be helpful when navigating their aging healthcare needs. This is critical for seniors with cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. The earlier you know their end of life care preferences, the better you can plan for their care.
This is a good time to tour several assisted living facilities. You’ll need to get their opinions long before the time comes to move. For example, would they insist on a solo room or would they be open to sharing a suite with another senior? What will their budget afford? Getting a handle on that early on can help your loved one adjust better when the time comes to move.
Making Accessibility Modifications to a Current Home
Most seniors want to age in place — and for good reason. Our homes are where we are often most comfortable. However, for many seniors, home safety can be a huge concern.
Talk with your loved one about the kinds of accessibility modifications you can make now to help prevent illness and injury. Also, talk about plans and preparation for modifications that might come further down the road if hospice care becomes a reality.
It’s helpful here to do a health assessment — examining family history, looking at current health needs and talking honestly about potential chronic conditions. Create a plan to balance independence with assistance, accommodate necessary medical equipment and make room for live-in care.
Organizing all the Necessary Paperwork
Out of sight, out of mind is a common mantra for people who cannot process difficult decisions. It’s not a judgment call; it’s simply a way to deal with uncomfortable topics.
One way to broach the idea of end of life arrangements is to ask your senior loved one to let you organize their paperwork. From life insurance documents to living wills and power of attorney, to understanding their healthcare plan, getting organized can open the door for deeper conversations. Try to include your senior loved one in the process. Keep it simple and break it up into sessions if they seem overwhelmed and allow their emotions to flow freely.
Reflecting and Honoring Life
Focus the conversation about end of life care on prioritizing their comfort. Also, make sure it’s about prioritizing their memory. Open conversations about their preferences for funerals and memorials by getting them to open up about cherished memories. Create space for them to reflect on the joys of their life and then encourage them to share how they would like friends and family to honor that memory after they are gone. It’s not only important for their peace of mind, but it also helps with financial planning.
Talking to loved ones about hospice care, disability and funerals can be heavy and burdensome. But knowing these answers can also create a sense of weightlessness. Be compassionate and encouraging, especially for loved ones facing the fear of Alzheimer’s. Making a plan now and help them stay grounded and hopeful for the hard journey ahead.