Broaching the dreaded senior care/ end of life talk

So, let’s talk about the “icky”, and encourage all of you to broach the dreaded senior /end of life talk with an aging loved one.

You may be wondering what a Bonnie Raitt song, “Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About”, has to do with Mennonite Village, a continuing care retirement community offering all senior living and care options. In a meeting the other day the focus of the discussion was to constantly improve our services when the comment was made that we need to talk about the “icky” to improve and move forward. So, let’s talk about the “icky”, and encourage all of you to broach the dreaded senior /end of life talk with an aging loved one., a NYSE company, did a survey this year delving into the financial and emotional challenges today’s families face when it comes to senior care. “Fifty-four percent of those surveyed said they’d rather have the “sex talk” with their kids than discuss a senior’s ability to drive.”

“The majority of those surveyed (85%) believe they have a good grasp of their parent’s or aging loved one’s health, but 52% have not discussed senior care issues.” And more than half of those surveyed don’t plan to talk about senior care until there’s a need. Top reasons of avoidance included knowing their aging loved one would react defensively, and their own discomfort with the subject.

The problem with not proactively talking with an aging loved one about long-term care is many families are unprepared for quick decisions when a health issue or crisis strikes. Families are in a better place to make informed decisions for the care of a loved one by talking about preferences and expectations before the need arises. There are a myriad of resources to help broach this sensitive topic, such as information on line or consulting with a professional. Preparing and having the conversation about end of life care lets your loved one know that you will be there for them.

The Conversation Project was created and dedicated to help people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care. You can download starter kits of how to get the conversation started. As the site states, “Sharing your wishes for end of life care can bring you closer to the people you love. It is critically important. And you can do it.”

Furthermore, it is not easy to know when an aging family member or loved one might need more care or assisted living. The following are warning signs that may indicate it’s time for a talk:

  • The refrigerator is empty or filled with spoiled food, or your parent is losing weight. He or she may not be eating well because shopping or cooking is difficult.
  • You notice frequent bruises. This may be a sign of falling, mobility or balance problems.
  • Your loved one wears the same clothes over and over again, and neglects personal hygiene. This may be that laundry and bathing may be physically challenging.
  • The house and yard is not as clean and tidy as it used to be.
  • Your loved one forgets things like doctor’s appointments and medications. May be memory loss.
  • Your aging loved one seems depressed. Depression is common with seniors who are isolated and alone.
  • You notice strange or inappropriate behavior. For example, dressing inappropriately for the weather.

Try to be listening, probing and most of all, not imposing your personal end of life choices on your loved one. There are lots of resources available on-line, through organizations and contacting consultants.

The Sandwich Generation continues to grow and nearly 70% of households in the U.S. are dual-income households, so senior care responsibilities impact employees and employers. 36% have asked for time off or workplace flexibility to accommodate for senior care; 36% say worrying about aging loved ones has affected their performance at work; and 34% have made work adjustments as a result of caring for aging loved ones. Senior care responsibilities weigh so heavily on employees that nearly half (46%) say they would consider dropping out of the workforce to care for an ailing parent or loved one.

With today’s modern workforce of two working parents who are “sandwiched” caring for their children and aging loved ones, families, employers and companies must recognize the need for benefits that serve both ends of the caregiving pendulum.  These types of benefits and services not only support the well-being of families and employees, but also help employers increase loyalty, reduce turnover costs, and drive productivity. So, on many different levels we need to start the conversations today.

Article Provided By:
Mennonite Village
Linda Haralson, Community Relations Representative
Ctystal Well, Administrator of Quail Run
541- 704-4294
541-928-1122, ext. 304


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