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It's time for 'the talk'

Have a family meeting about aging care sooner that later
Jason W. Swanson, director, Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging

It’s time we have “that talk” with our loved ones — whether a spouse, parent, in-law, grandparent or a friend — about establishing a plan as they age.
We plan careers, vacations, weddings, get-togethers and retirements, but we often don’t take time to plan the things we’ll need help with as we age and the different types of services we may require.
It’s difficult to make these decisions in a hospital room after a traumatic experience. … Nursing home? Hospice? Assisted living? Divide caregiving among family members?
By this time, it’s too late. These discussions need to happen with the care receiver when he or she can participate in the conversation as the one who is affected the most.
A family meeting, in this sense, is meant to be an open discussion about caring for a family member or friend. By having this meeting early, you can identify possible barriers and find solutions.
Here are some tips to having a successful family meeting: Address the most critical issues first, be honest and respectful, listen to the care receiver who will ultimately make the decision, turn off cell phones or other distractions, use “I” statements to express feelings and concerns.
When is the best time to hold a family meeting? Sooner than later, because you never know when an emergency is going to happen, especially if there is concern about the loved one’s health, change in the amount of assistance needed or if visiting family or friends are asking questions.
The worst thing that can happen is not having a conversation. Because guess what? We all age, we all want to age successfully, and we want our loved ones to know what our expectations are.
Also, deciding that once someone hits a certain age, they “get put in a home” is not having a successful plan. It’s demeaning to our loved ones and our caregiving role.
The challenge is to have the conversation. It can be formal, informal, or even a quick call to say, “Hey, I think we need to talk.”
The Slayton office of the Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging can be reached at 507-387-1256. Also the Senior Link Age Line is a valuable first stop for families seeking resources. The number is 1-800-333-2433.

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