How to Improve Caregiving Conversations
In a perfect world, everyone would be on the same page about the care of a sick or aging loved one. However, topics like finances, estate planning, medical decisions, living arrangements, and caregiving plans can be challenging. It’s very common for family members to have different ideas, and opinions and emotions can run high. Use the tips below to improve caregiving conversations with your loved ones.
Begin having caregiving conversations early.
One of the best ways to improve caregiving conversations is to start them before you need to. It’s a lot easier to remove emotions from the equation when you are discussing a hypothetical situation that may arise in the future.
Caregiving conversations shouldn’t be a one-time thing. Over time, your loved ones’ wishes may evolve or their health or living arrangements may change, causing their plans to change along with them.
Normalizing conversations about CPR, funeral arrangements, and life goals will make it easier on everyone when a crisis hits.
Do your research.
Before suggesting a change in your loved one’s activities or living arrangements, be sure to spend time with them to understand what is needed. Are they falling more often? Struggling with daily chores? Change is hard. It’s important to get a real understanding of what’s happening, so you can approach the conversation with information and compassion.
Do your research on solutions before bringing the topic up to your loved one. If you believe they need to relocate to a facility, look into a few options and learn about their amenities, meals, and activities. If you believe they need additional care, explore availability in your area and costs. It’s helpful to have a few good options when possible.
Look for the best possible solution.
When a change in your loved one’s care or living situation needs to happen, people may bring a lot of emotion and differing opinions to the table. This includes the person at the center of the discussion. Keep in mind that you all want what is best for your loved one. It’s not about winning or taking over your loved one’s life. It’s about making decisions together, respectfully and with compassion, so a difficult conversation can go as smoothly as possible. Be open to other ideas as long as the important goals of your loved one’s health and safety are met.
Invite important people to the conversation.
If you want to come to a conclusion that everyone is on board with, it’s helpful to include all the stakeholders in the conversation. It can also be helpful to invite trusted advisors and professionals who can offer objective advice based on their own experience. This could be a spiritual advisor, a lawyer, trusted doctors, or family friends. Each brings their own insight.
Approach conversations with a positive attitude.
Conversations are more effective when people aren’t feeling attacked. Ask questions about what is important to your loved one and what they are struggling with. Listen and validate their concerns. Let them know that you understand their feelings of fear, anger, resistance, or sadness. Focus on finding solutions together. Just feeling heard can sometimes help people move forward with difficult decisions.
Be realistic about your progress. It may take several conversations before everyone can come to an agreement on the best way forward. Don’t get frustrated. Just come back each time with a calm, respectful approach.
Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care supports patients and families facing serious and terminal illness. Our team can offer support and advice on how to approach end-of-life caregiving conversations. For more information, call us at 1-888-564-3405.
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