Have you had the discussion with Momma about her preferences? What exactly are Momma’s Preferences? If and when she can’t stay at home by herself any longer, what does she want? Does she want family coming in to help or outside caregivers? Would Momma even prefer facility care or some other option? Most readers would guess that she would want to stay home by herself or would want family coming in to take care of her. This is a good guess. However if you have not discussed Momma’s Preferences, how do you know?
My experience is that many Seniors are very serious about not imposing on their adult kids. Many Seniors would prefer to go to a Nursing Home or Assisted Living Facility. Some would like to stay at home with minimal family assistance. Others would pick something else. The point is, if you have not had this discussion with Mom or Dad at a family meeting, how do you know? Their feeling/preference are important and should be seriously considered – after all, it is their life!
This morning we had a Family Caregiver leave a comment on our Help Me Help Momma Facebook page in response to a recent blog post entitled Duties of a Family Caregiver. This caregiver asked, “On the flip side, what of the parents’ feelings? Those who much rather (continue to live at home in an effort to) be independent till the end?”
Not an Easy Conversation to Have…
The dilemma is that no one wants to have this conversation. At least not while your spouse or declining parent still has their capacity. Obviously, after they have lost their capacity, you can’t have this conversation with them. Having said this, the “preference conversation” is a very important one to have. What does the declining Senior in your life want – both now, and in the future? They (and you) may be comfortable with the way things are going now, but what if their health declined a little more – then what? What if their health declined substantially? These decisions need to be discussed up front. At the same time, a plan of action needs to be formed to make them happen.
Here are a few milestones to consider as you move along the elder care journey:
Planning Before You Need to Plan
For years in our law practice clients would ask me when they needed to do their estate planning. In other words, “How long can I put this off”? I always jokingly answered, “You can wait until the day before you die”. However, few of us can plan with that degree of accuracy. If you are reading this and are physically and cognitively OK, please don’t take this for granted. Things can change in a flash. If you are the Senior and are reading this, please make an appointment with your Elder Law or Estate Planning Attorney now to get your planning in order. By taking matter in your own hand, YOU will be the one making the decisions about your future care. This is how it should be.
The Perfect Opportunity to Plan
Are you are still able to function and think clearly? Now is the perfect opportunity for you to decide what you want if your health declines in the future. What are your preferences? This is your chance to interview some non-medical care companies to see what they do. As you review them, you can form your own conclusions about their service. You can also tour some independent living, assisted living and skilled care communities. You will know what you want with some specificity, should you ever need their services.
If you have checked this out yourself, you will be able to make much more informed decisions as to what you want should your health decline in the future. If your parents are no longer able to tour these facilities, maybe you (the adult kids) can do some of the interviews or arrange tours of various facilities long before your parents need that level of care. By doing this, they will be able to see what is offered and will be able to more accurately state what they want and don’t want.
At the First Signs of Decline
Momma may be at home and may be doing sort of O.K. with your help. You may be stopping by to check on her on the way to work and again on the trip home. We refer to the point where you are spending 1 – 3 hours per day helping care for Momma as Journey Stop #1.
At this point in time, you may not identify with the tag of “Family Caregiver”. Instead, you just think of yourself as one of the kids. You love Momma and will do whatever it takes to care for her. This stage is the “first shot over the bow”. If you haven‘t done so already, this is the time that you need to have the preferences conversation with Momma. Not in a confrontational way – but in a loving, “I want to help” way. Expect a little push-back. It is not easy for a person who has been independent for years to readily accept help. But it is worth the try. The more that a parent can be educated about the options and be involved in the decision making process, the better.
As Health Declines Even More
Most Family Caregivers start proving care just a few hours a day, until the need becomes more involved. Typically as health declines, the demands on the Family Caregiver intensifies. Suddenly, they realize that they are now spending 3 – 6 hours per day with Momma. This is what we refer to as Journey Stop #2, the Serious Time Stage.
It is at this point in time that some serious decisions have to be made. If the Family Caregiver has a family of their own and is still working a full time job, they are stretched and stressed to the max. If the declining parent still has capacity, then some serious conversations need to take place. Various action steps then need to be implemented as soon as possible. Failure to do so can wreak havoc on the lives of the Senior and upon the Family Caregiver who is giving it their all.
Best wishes as you help your Loved One discover and communicate their Preference for their current and future care needs.