We know that talking to family about long-term care before the need arises makes sense. It is human nature to put off talking about it or to avoid the conversation and hope that things will work out. Talking about aging, finances and health can be awkward because these are personal and complex topics. Putting a plan in place before a crisis occurs can help make sure your long-term care choices are known, understood and respected.
A long-term care plan begins by having honest conversations with those closest to you. Otherwise, you risk having important decisions made for you at a time when emotions are high, the choices are confusing and there is little time to consider all of the factors.
It may be helpful to start by talking first with your spouse or partner to find out if you are on the same page on these important issues. Finding out where you agree or disagree will help guide future decisions and planning.
It is a good idea to talk with your family in advance about what would happen if you need help with everyday personal care activities as you age or if you become ill or develop a disability.
Do not wait until a crisis
Adult children and their parents may have different ideas about how to meet long-term care needs. Do not wait until you are in the middle of a crisis to make your wishes known. When you talk with your family, share your concerns and preferences about where you want to live, how you want your care needs met and any medical history that may be important in making decisions.
Discuss with your family if moving in with other family members or sharing your home with someone is a viable option for you.
Make sure your family knows your preferences in the event of a terminal illness or a sudden illness that might leave you with a disability or unable to communicate your preferences for end-of-life care.
Let your family know where you keep important legal papers like your will, long-term care insurance policy (if you have one), health care directive, power of attorney and other legal papers.
As you begin the conversation with your family members, keep the following in mind:
Be clear about why it is important to talk about these issues.
Remember that listening is also part of communication. Family members may have feelings and opinions that differ from yours, so take the time to listen to their concerns as well.
Look for natural opportunities to start a discussion with your family. Use other people’s stories in that discussion and ask, “What would you do if you are in that situation?”
Begin the conversation with some of your concerns about the long-term care decisions you are facing.
Do not try to tackle too many issues at once. It may be easier to have a series of conversations over time.
Your discussions can provide the foundation of your long-term care plan. If you find your family is not comfortable talking about your long-term care needs, acknowledge their feelings, share your reasons for concern and try again later.