Alexander Graham Bell once said, “before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Preparing for transitions in life, such as the birth of a child, a new job, or children heading off to college, helps make the sometimes bumpy roads of change a little more smooth. Why, then, is it so challenging for us to apply this same logic to how we approach aging?
Outside of financially planning for retirement, aging is not something that most people consider thinking about in advance. Often times, a medical or life emergency prompts the need for conversations to be had and decisions to be made. But, according to Tandem’s Director of Careplanning, Maureen Tyra, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Maureen spends each day helping seniors and their loved ones better understand their care options and feel more confident about being proactive about their decisions. As an expert, Maureen gave us actionable tips to use in order to plan for care before you or your loved one really need it:
Get Started By Having Thoughtful Conversations
Many people might avoid having conversations with their aging loved ones about their end of life care plans because it makes them feel uncomfortable, or they don’t know how to broach the subject. Maureen recommends approaching the topic from a place of curiosity, rather than fear.
“Talking to your loved ones about their care desires is so important,” Maureen says. “I’m very passionate about the fact that everyone needs to thoughtfully choose their agent and talk to them about what they want to happen. Otherwise, it can end up being chaotic and emotionally traumatic. And I want people to know that it doesn’t have to be!”
If you’re having trouble figuring out where to begin with a conversation about aging care and available elder care services, Maureen has a few prompts to help you:
- Where would they like to live? Start by asking about what their preference would be when it comes to living arrangements. Would they be comfortable in a senior care community with assisted living? Or, would they prefer to remain at home with an in-home caregiver?
- Who in your life can help take care of you? If your loved one would like to remain at home, and expects you to care for them, you need to have an honest conversation about your own limitations when it comes to being their sole care provider.
- How are we going to pay for your care? If your aging loved one has long-term care insurance, review their policy to see exactly what’s included--and excluded. If they have secondary insurance, go through the policy to see if it will cover what Medicare will not. This is especially important if your loved one is interested in receiving support from an in-home caregiver, as not all policies cover that expense.
Take Action Based On Your Conversations
After you’ve had some initial conversations with your loved one about their desires for how they want to age, discuss the decisions they’ve made with the rest of your family.
“Even if you’ve been appointed as the decision-maker, when you have siblings you should share information with them so that everyone is on the same page about how your loved one will receive care and who will be responsible for what,” says Maureen.
Maureen believes that there are two major topics that warrant conversations with siblings. The first is deciding to bring in a senior care consultant or geriatric care manager to help you understand your options and the resources available to you and your loved one. The other has to do with any official documents, such as a healthcare directive or advance directive, that need to be shared with their care agents, family members, and primary care providers.
“Additionally, if you have been identified as the care provider for your aging loved one, talk through the information on any documents with your loved one to make sure you understand exactly what they want or need,” says Maureen. “It will also help you to figure out your own boundaries as a family caregiver; if you are uncomfortable or feel ill-equipped to step into the role, have that conversation with them and help them consider alternative solutions.”
Make More Educated Choices About Hiring An In-Home Caregiver
Bringing in companion care early on can take pressure off of you as the family caregiver, and get your loved one more used to the idea of having additional caregiving help at home. Hiring a caregiver before there is a full-time need allows for more time with your research to find the best option for your family, and grants you the ability to weigh out all the pros and cons.
“While an aging person may be resistant at first to hiring an in-home caregiver, prevention plays a big role in aging well,” says Maureen. “It can be hard to give up autonomy, but it’s not a sign of weakness to recognize that you might need extra help in order to set yourself up for more long-term success. Besides, starting with companion care isn’t a commitment for life.”
Maureen suggests easing into in-home caregiver services by hiring someone to provide companion care just one or two days per week. Get your loved one to commit to at least one month of companion care as part of a trial experience to get them used to the concept and help them feel like they are more in control of the situation.
Tandem Careplanning Is Here To Help
Of course, with a company name like Tandem Careplanning, a big part of what we do for clients is help them plan for care. Whether you think your loved one is ready for care or not, we will talk to you about the situation and help you better understand your options.
“We’re really here to support the client and the family, and to work through any issues that could be looming in order to prevent a crisis from occurring,” Maureen says.
If you’re ready for some additional support, call us at 1-800-370-3377.