Someone you love is almost certainly going to need caregiving at some point as they age. The need for care may be short or long term; at home, in a hospital or facility. You may be their spouse, child, friend – or, it may be you. There are some critical conversations that must happen sooner than later – before a crisis occurs.

Although these conversations can be stressful, I guarantee having them before any crisis will reduce the stress you and your family will experience once the care is actually needed. As an owner of a caregiving business, I have a unique view into what families experience as their loved ones age. It has taught me a few very profound lessons regarding what conversations to have before circumstances force urgent decisions. As your or your loved one’s health gets worse, these conversations get harder, not easier. Have them while everyone is 100%.

Here are the basic discussions you should have (and if you are over 50 and don’t know what these things are, find out!):

  1. Are Living Wills in place including the selection of Powers of Attorney (POA) and a Do Not Resuscitate order, if that’s your wish?
  2. Do your Powers of Attorney truly understand your wishes in detail?
  3. Have you given copies of these documents to your POAs, Doctor, Lawyer and family?
  4. Is your wish to age at home or in a seniors oriented facility?
  5. If a couple is aging at home, have you discussed what happens with one if the other’s health changes?
  6. Are family members willing to provide ongoing, hands-on care if needed? Do they appreciate what that may involve?
  7. If immediate family doesn’t live close by, in a crisis, is there a plan to meet your loved ones’ urgent needs? If you’re out of town and a loved one needs help, is there a plan in place?
  8. Are regular visits from professional caregivers an affordable option to enable living at home as long as possible? Have you considered 24 hour or live-in care?
  9. Do you know of a company you trust to explain how private care works and your options?
  10. Do you know who to call to get a professional caregiver quickly? Are you set up with them to enable this support on short notice?
  11. If you want to age at home, is there a plan to get it ready? Things to consider: bedroom location, bathroom accessibility, navigating stairs, where a caregiver might sleep, and devices to maximize safety.

The biggest challenge I see families face is when one of the most common crises, a fall, leads to an injury that is very hard if not impossible to fully recover from. The recovery process often leads to more and greater problems. Preventing falls is probably the single greatest extender of quality of life as we age. Preparing the home and possibly having a regular caregiver can meaningfully reduce the risk of falls.

I talk to the children of seniors constantly about the challenge of arranging care for a parent who doesn’t think they need it. Ironically, notwithstanding the tremendous benefits from having a caregiver, the idea of having one makes people feel they will be less independent, less dignified, vulnerable and scared about the “slippery slope” having care represents (to be fair, it’s more often the men who feel this way). In my experience, the opposite is true – having a caregiver enables much more independence, a safer home environment, and tremendous relief, on multiple levels, for your family.

For an excellent explanation and example of a Living Will,  click here.

To learn more about using professional caregivers, call Caregiver Services Ltd. at 905 642 9494