At certain points in our lives, the prospect of the future and discussing it with others can be endlessly exciting. Our minds will race at the possibilities of the adventures we can have, the places we’ll visit and vacation in, the various apartments and homes we can live in, the friends we’ll make and the future spouse or partner we’ll meet, and, if we’re lucky enough, the kids we might one day raise. However, for many of us as we age through our lives and reach the twilight years, thinking about the future can be somewhat less exciting, and a bit more overwhelming. Both for the individual, and for their loved ones.
If you are the loved one, caregiver, or both at once, for an older adult, you may feel many competing and potentially conflicting emotions when it comes to making plans for your loved one’s future. Starting a conversation with your loved one about their wishes for the future is not necessarily something most adult children are champing at the bit to do. Unfortunately, it is all too common for families to put off having these discussions altogether, leading to possible problems and heartache down the line. Many are worried that these topics are too sensitive to bring up with their loved ones, and therefore avoid broaching them entirely.
Topics like encouraging your loved one to transition away from driving, downsizing from living in a large home to a smaller, safer and easier to manage one, seeking outside help from a home healthcare aide, or moving into an assisted living community can all be heavy, emotionally charged topics that are difficult for both senior citizens and their adult children to bring up in the first place, let alone discuss at length.
Preparing to talk about these topics while keeping in mind any potential awkwardness can be overwhelming, and seeing a path forward navigating them may be challenging at first. However, it is always important to remember that as a loved one, or as a caregiver, having a solid plan for the future will give both you and a loved one peace of mind, as well as ensuring their needs are met in a thoughtful and timely way.
Waiting for a crisis like an injury, accident, or sudden serious illness to occur before making any major decisions can end up forcing seniors and their loved ones to make decisions quickly, and without considering all the options. Experts recommend something called the 40/70 rule. Essentially, the time to start discussing the future with your elder loved ones is either when you reach age 40, or they reach the age of 70. One of the best ways to approach it is that you’re just concerned with helping your loved one live their best retirement life.
Since these conversations come with lots of emotions on both sides, it is important to set the stage for a productive conversation. Establishing ground rules before you start can be a great way to make the conversation clear and effective.