When caring for a family member that has Alzheimer’s disease, or any illness for that matter, you can sometimes feel as if you are on a roller coaster. Up and down you go reacting and responding to dramatic changes in his/her condition. Knowing that sudden changes in your loved one’s condition are a fact of life, what can you do to smooth out the ride?
Whether you are caring for a family member now or anticipate caring for someone in the future, NOW is the time to start talking and planning. It takes time to discuss and get answers to questions like:
1. What type of care do you want if you are seriously ill?
2. How have you prepared financially for your retirement and long term care?
3. Have you prepared a will, healthcare directives and power of attorney for property?
These are not questions that you want to be asking when your parent is already ill. It may take significant time and patience to discuss these and other serious questions. It’s important to frame your questions and concerns from a perspective of empowering your parent. When we discuss a time when we may need help, it feels frightening. It can feel as if we are giving away our freedom. It’s a matter of perspective whether we view planning and preparing for an uncertain future to be comforting or scary. Making decisions NOW can be a very powerful and wise thing to do.
Starting a conversation on these sensitive issues can feel awkward. When you approach this as a series of conversations rather than a one-time event, it takes some of the pressure off doing it “right” the first time.
Things to consider when planning a difficult conversation:
* Introduce a challenging subject by presenting it as a problem that a friend or family member experienced.
* Take a story from the news that applies to the problem you want to discuss.
* Be prepared for some strong emotions. These are tough topics for you and your family member to discuss.
If strong emotions have stopped conversations like this in the past, do a bit of analysis about what happened in the past. For example, if a typical response to a difficult topic is anger, then think through how you might respond.
* It may take several conversations to thoroughly discuss the topic.
* Speak from a place of integrity by making sure you have had discussions with key family members about your wishes and have all your financial and legal paperwork in order. If you have not taken care of these important decisions perhaps you and your parent can have a shared project of getting prepared.
Your challenge for today is to identify a serious issue or concern that you need to discuss with your family member and to set a date on the calendar to discuss it.
Elayne Forgie, CMC