Parents getting frail? Time for a family discussion.
Are you worried about parents getting frail? Have you noticed they don’t seem to be coping very well?
If you think an elderly relative needs some support but you just don’t know how to start a conversation with them about their situation; you’re not alone.
There are many families who find themselves struggling to get elderly relatives to talk about their difficulties.
Often when parents are getting frail they don’t want to acknowledge they’re finding it hard to cope. They may be afraid of becoming a burden or of losing their independence. So they try to struggle on, often brushing aside offers of help.
How to start talking about parents getting frail
The biggest hurdle to getting help for elderly relatives is often finding a way to start the necessary conversations. Here are some suggestions that could help in getting the discussion going.
Lead by example – make Lasting Powers of Attorney and Wills
Don’t just tell elderly relatives what you think they should be doing, lead by example.
If you think it’s time they made a Will or Lasting Power of Attorney, make sure you have those documents in place for yourself. Then you can tell your relatives about the arrangements you’ve made for your own life. This is often a good way to introduce the topic into a discussion.
- Involve younger members of the family
Encourage your own children or younger relatives to have an open discussion with you about health decisions and later life care.
Make sure your elderly relatives are present when you’re talking to your children about later life decisions or tell them about the conversation you’ve had with your children and why you found it helpful. Your parents may then begin to see it’s normal to talk about these subjects within the family.
- Bring in someone they like and respect
It is not unusual for an elderly person to be willing to discuss issues with a friend or professional more openly than with their own family.
- Avoid making elderly parents feel guilty
If you do manage to broach the subject try to keep your own emotions in check. It’s important that parents don’t feel guilty about being unable to manage. If you nag at them about the difficulties of their situation it is likely to make them feel they’re somehow to blame.
- Try to put forward a number of different solutions
Depending on the stage at which the discussion is taking place there might be very few options available in terms of their care but it is important that older people feel that they still have some choice. Try to find some things they could have a choice about, such as the area where they would like to live if a residential home is the only reasonable option.
Be considerate of their fears and anxieties
Take the time to find out the views of parents getting frail and identify any particular fears or uncertainties. For example, they might have prejudices about residential care based on personal anecdotes they’ve heard. Or there could be things they have seen or read in the news which could have raised anxieties that are making them reluctant to commit to any change.
- Make sure they are fully supported through any care assessment and means testing processes
One of the biggest fears for older people and their families is the loss of their home or other assets if they commit to receiving care support.
It is very important to make sure they and you get independent, professional advice throughout the assessment process and understand how assessments for NHS Continuing Healthcare and local authority funded care are carried out and if necessary challenged. Confidence that the process is conducted fairly can make a huge difference to an older person’s attitude to engaging in exploring care options.
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