It’s never to early to think about and talk about our healthcare preferences and end of life wishes, and National Health Care Decisions Day can be the perfect time to start. It can feel uncomfortable to discuss these topics, but there are tools and resources than can help. Approaching this discussion as an opportunity for everyone to share their plans and wishes can lower everyone’s defenses, and get the conversation flowing.
Here are a few suggestions about how to have The Conversation:
It is best to plan and prepare for any significant life events well in advance, rather than scrambling and making decisions in a crisis mode. Hiring in-home care, adapting to a change in health, or moving from one’s home, regardless of age, is a “significant” life event! April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day. Take advantage of this day to open or continue the discussion with your loved ones.
It can be stressful enough, when you know you need to do something. It is even worse when you do not even know how to get started. In short, it is easy to procrastinate. Once you take the first step and open the dialogue, that worry can go away. The earlier you have the initial conversation, the more time you will have to research care options without undue pressure.
Prepare Talking Points
The Conversation Project, a non-profit organization, has a Conversation Starter Guide to help you evaluate your own values and wishes, and to help you start the Conversation with others. They also have workbooks to help you choose a Healthcare Proxy, Talk with a Health Care Team, and Being Prepared in the Time of COVID-19, and more.
It can also be helplful to know what options are available in your area. A member of the National Placement and Referral Alliance can help you identify senior housing and senior care communities that match your needs and interests. These Agents provide assistance at no cost to the client.
If these types of conversations don’t come easily for your family, or if there are more complex potential needs, you may want to hire an Aging Life Care Manager. These Care Managers are usually Social Workers or Nurses who have extensive experience with care coordination, and can help lead a family meeting or discussion.
You do not need to engage in a marathon session to discuss every aspect of long-term care and reach a final decision. The “elephant” does not need to be consumed in one bite. One of the advantages of initiating a long-term care conversation before a crisis, is having time to talk through and evaluate options at a comfortable pace. Hurried decisions made under pressure, often lead to future regrets. National Health Care Decisions Day is a time to start or continue The Conversation.
Respect The Right to Choose
In the end, your loved ones do not need someone to dictate where they will live and what care they will receive. Knowing that a plan is in place can give you and your loved ones peace of mind, so proceed at a pace that is comfortable for all involved. Open communication is a must.
A Certified Elder Law Attorney can help you put your plans into place. Whether drafting Financial and Medical Powers of Attorney, writing a Living Will, crafting a Living Trust, negotiating Family Caregiver Agreements, pursuing Guardianship, or planning for Medicaid or other benefits you will want to find an attorney qualified and experienced in these specific issues.
For more ideas, you can check out these resources:
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