November is National Caregivers Month

“Family is the most important thing in the world” – Princess Diana

“From caring comes courage” – Lao Tzu

How to Have “the talk” with your Aging Parents Over the Holiday Season

by Valerie Geiger and Cary Cucinelli, November 2018

It is the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”! You gather with family both near and far. Going home for the holidays or having family come to you is a tradition that allows you to reconnect with your loved ones.  These festive occasions are also eye-opening moments when you may notice a loved one’s diminished ability to care for themselves, financially or physically. How do you recognize the signs and how do you handle this very sensitive topic at the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”?

Some age-related signs to look for:

  • Weight loss
  • Changes in balance and mobility
  • Emotional well-being
  • Home environment

The must- have conversations you need to have this holiday season are:

  • Assessing age-related decline and cognitive ability
  • Financial planning
  • Health and safety
  • Legal planning
  • Well-being

When is the best time?

The holidays are sensitive time and people tend to be stressed making this potentially the worst timing but unfortunately, it is when everyone is together.

So, the BEST time is NOW!  (note: do not use the holiday dinner table as the place to have the conversation). Use your visit time wisely with your parents. The idea is to start talking with your parents when they are healthy and they don’t feel they are being a burden on their adult children.  Don’t wait for a crisis to begin talking…have it sooner than later and on an ongoing basis. Don’t try and cram the conversation into a one hour visit. Take your time, and allow the conversation to unfold naturally and in relation to situations, they may see their friends or others facing. This holiday visit might be the perfect “first” conversation that will lead to others in the future.

How to begin

Be prepared. If possible, talk with your siblings ahead of time to share your observations, concerns, and possible solutions. Make a list of the things you want to discuss to help you stay on track and avoid distractions.

Be sensitive. Aging is very difficult. They view you as still the child and them the parent. Use empathy when approaching this topic. i.e. “I know this must be difficult for you” and “I want you to know I am here to help”.

Take your time. As stated before, do not try and cram the conversation into a short 20 -minute time period. Discuss one or two concerns (during the visit) giving your parents time to digest the information. Revisit the discussion in the days or weeks to come (this allows you to not have it consume your holiday visit).

Be collaborative, not directive. Your parents do not want to be told what they will do or where they will live. Solicit their input about their hopes and wishes for their future.

Remain calm. You and your parents may experience a full range of emotions. Validate your parents’ feelings and reassure them that you have their best interests at heart.

 What to do

You need to act fast, before you see further declines in capacity. This situation is always difficult to face, but procrastinating helps no one. Declines typically snowball, making a bad situation even worse.

Schedule an informal evaluation of your loved one’s capacity from a geriatric care manager. If you need a referral,contact us.

As elder lawyers, we are here to help you create the legal documents needed so that you and your family can care for and protect your loved one. You’ll need:

  • A durable general power of attorney that designates the one person authorized to make key decisions on your loved one’s behalf.
  • An advance medical directive, which includes a power of attorney for health care and a living will.

An experienced elder law attorney will tailor these documents to your loved one’s unique wants and needs.

This information is designed to help you have an enjoyable holiday while tackling something very important and necessary. We are here to help guide you along the way.

Happy Holidays!  Cary and Valerie