Tough Conversations: How to Talk to Seniors About Tender Issues
Whether we’re talking estate or financial planning, tough conversations with people you love are unavoidable. No one wants to talk about finances or end-of-life planning, but it’s imperative that you’re able to sit down and plan out a future. No matter how uncomfortable you feel, these conversations help eliminate pain and suffering down the road when issues may occur.
How to Begin
First and foremost, don’t wait until it’s too late to talk. Making a tough decision without planning could lead to a rushed result that may go against their wishes. Consider any possibility that may arise in a time of crisis and plan ahead. Your family’s personality and preferences will shape the way everything is handled. Be sure to respect everyone’s opinions and open lines of communication as much as possible.
Take your time, research the subject, and don’t force conversations all at once. Never corner someone abruptly with a topic they aren’t prepared to discuss. Know what you’re going to talk about first, and why you have taken the stance you have. Weigh options with everyone involved, but remember to keep the senior’s opinion in the highest priority.
Make sure you fully understand your loved one’s circumstances and be prepared to discuss all options. Listen more than you speak, and give them all of your attention. Keep the mood positive and constructive. Remember that trust is the most important part of a relationship to maintain, especially if you want to help someone. Combine recent events with new studies or technology to present your opinion. This helps bring up the topic for something other than a crisis, which can be detrimental to their best interest. Summed up: be honest, trustworthy, calm, and respectful.
Discussing Health Issues
It’s essential to learn about all aspects of a senior’s healthcare. This is important even without chronic illness or injury. Researchers have found that nearly 50% of seniors over 65 take at least three medications and many others use multiple healthcare providers. Seniors must use a network of health professionals and caregivers to build a strong foundation of support. It’s essential to know about all medications, illnesses, doctors, insurance details, and any other information that can help in the case of an emergency.
Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a major medical event to convince senior to consider their future. Roughly 95% of seniors incur medical expenses, which amount to $10,125 on average a year. Planning for these variable costs is very important. Consider choosing a trustworthy and fair person for medical power of attorney to ensure clear decision-making during stressful times. Of course, arguments may be impossible to avoid, but planning ahead should hopefully keep them to a minimum.
Care Options and Long-Term Care Goals
When you start the conversation about long-term goals and options, the best place to start is with their current health condition. Regardless of any illness or disability, the majority of seniors recognize the eventual need for care. Discuss any wishes they may have in regards to options should they lose the ability to make decisions themselves. The beauty of the situation is there is a level of care available for every type of care needed.
The options for care are nearly endless, so seniors can choose care based on their needs as they progress. In-home care or adult daycare can work for those wishing to age-in-place; assisted living or senior apartments are excellent choices for independent seniors. Nursing homes are ideal for seniors in need of daily assistance; memory care is perfect for seniors struggling with cognitive decline. These types of homes represent an umbrella of care that can fit your loved one’s lifestyle and personal needs as they change over time.
In the conversation, document their hobbies and interests to use when interviewing caregivers or communities. You should have multiple options available for different events, even if just for peace of mind. Something as simple as weekly housekeeping can make a huge difference. This may be a touchy subject, so make sure you’re respectful and courteous.
Life Insurance and Financials
It becomes more and more important that the closest caretakers have an understanding of the senior’s finances. This includes everything from housing, food, transportation, healthcare, and entertainment, even end-of-life finances. Seniors over 75 have average annual expenditures of around $34,000. This may feel invasive, remember to reassure your loved one and validate their opinions consistently.
Estate planning takes a bit of work, but is very much worth the added effort. Start by laying out all essential financial information and discussing burial preferences. Estate planning is about making a list of everything and talking about what needs to be done, even if the conversation may seem uncomfortable. As long as the trust is there, it will work out better for everyone in the end.
Consider life insurance options and discuss them as early as possible. Some seniors consider life insurance a luxury expense and pass over the benefits. As long as you purchase a plan at the right time, you’ll see an outcome that’s worth the expense. Funeral costs can hit hard, averaging over $7,000! Insurance helps with unexpected costs like medical bills, mortgage pay off, burial expenses, and inheritance for your loved ones.
With well-intentioned, researched opinions, you should be able to have a constructive talk about what to do in the future. Use this as a chance to get to know your loved one’s needs and wishes. Keep their opinion in the highest priority and consider all available options. Weigh the pros and cons accordingly while keeping a positive line of communication open. Covering as many topics as possible helps solves serious problems in the long run.
Most importantly, continue to check in with the senior to make sure they’re comfortable and their needs are being met. Seniors can experience depression and loneliness, so being there for the ones we love should never be looked over. Love and support carries us through the toughest times. They have been there for us, now it’s time to give them the same love and support.
About the Author: John Winfrey Jr. received his Bachelor’s in 2015 from the University of North Texas after spending much of his 20’s traveling across the country. Majoring in Marketing and minoring in Journalism gave him the experience needed to write and research important topics like senior health. Senior health especially hits home as his veteran father was a senior who eventually became deaf and blind. John had to become as familiar as he could, quickly, to provide support for his father.