Crafting a Care Plan with a Senior Loved One
For many aging adults and their loved ones, discussing plans for future care can be a sensitive topic. Jewish Home Chief Medical Officer Dr. Noah Marco shares how important it is to have the discussion and suggests a few ways families can ease into the conversation.
While nearly 90% of American seniors over the age of 65 plan to live independently for as long as possible, many find illness and other life events can greatly affect a senior’s desire and ability to live safely on their own.
Aging adults might experience difficulty completing household chores, running errands, and even taking care of their personal needs. For many, the humbling experience of admitting they need help with daily activities can become a source of embarrassment or anxiety. Therefore, they tend not to express to others the challenges they are having.
Often, family and friends are the first to trigger the discussion. That is why it is important for family member to watch for changes in their loved one's appearance, behavior, and physical ability. An example would be the seniors leaving the stove on and burning a pot.
A shift in the aging adult’s aptitude to complete everyday tasks can signal the opportune time to discuss plans for the future. Being proactive in partnering with the senior to select the right care plan can save family and friends from making difficult decision in a moment of crisis later on.
If the senior is capable, he/she should be as involved as possible in the decision making. During the discussion, loved ones should actively listen and be respectful of the senior’s preferences, concerns, and decisions. Family members can start the conversation by asking their loved one to share their thoughts, feelings, and opinions on creating a plan for the future.
A great way to stimulate a meaningful discussion is to ask, "If something happened that would mean you could no longer live in your home safely, what would you want to do?" Your follow up questions and answers should then be based on how the seniors responds. I often supplement these discussions with the phrase, "I am wishing for the best (that you can always stay in your home), but I think we also need to plan for the worse (you having to leave your home, or have someone care for you in your home)."
Ideally, this is not a talk that occurs just once. Care planning works best as an ongoing conversation for seniors and their loved ones. Getting input from a trusted medical professional is advisable. The senior’s doctor(s) can provide insight and offer expert advice tailored to each senior's situation.
Although the discussion can be a lengthy and challenging experience, it is important to remember all parties involved are working toward creating a future where the senior is safe, happy, and healthy.
To connect with the Jewish Home’s expert staff and learn about the full continuum of quality senior care, call our toll-free Connections to Care hotline: 855.227.3745 or visit our website.