General / Starting the Conversation
by Chris Cremean, LSW
Caregivers need all the help they can get.
One of the most difficult barriers to helping a
loved one is knowing the best approaches to
addressing the issues that need to be addressed.
It all comes down to building, or in some cases,
rebuilding relationships with those loved ones.
There are three areas that need to be tackled:
communication, planning, and family dynamics.
There is the direct approach to communication:
“You NEED to do this,” “You SHOULD make out a
will or plan your funeral arrangements.” The
problem with this approach is that most people
don’t want people TELLING them what to do. They
will be more apt to tune them out and not pursue
the thing you are trying to get them to do.
A more effective approach is the indirect one.
Don’t be confrontational. Make suggestions that
the person look into the subject or point out
experiences that others had with the area of
concern and how it worked out (or didn’t) in
their case. “Cousin Ned sure was glad that Aunt
Mable made out that advanced directive in
deciding how to handle Uncle Fred’s stroke.”
This will place the idea in the person’s head
and sometimes they will bring it up themselves
at a time when they are ready to deal with it.
The most important thing in communication is to
keep doing it, communicating. Think of it as an
ongoing discussion and not a “We have to get
this done and move on.” Most decisions are for
something in the future.
Timing is everything. Remember the indirect
communication approach? Crisis can be avoided by
planning for the future. Always remember whom
the planning is for. Each of us wants to have
the final say in any decision that affects us
directly. Your role is to help bring the
information to the person so they can make an
informed decision. You will also know what’s
what by doing this.
Be aware that government benefits have a bias
towards institutional care, not the place of
choice – home. finances will dictate
options at various points in the life journey;
income, resources, insurance, benefit programs.
To a parent, you will ALWAYS be the child. Look
around and see what supports are there. Reach
out to siblings, relatives, friends and service
providers. The most successful people to deal
with caregiving situations are those who build a
strong team of support and don’t try to go it
alone. This will also allow for all those
involved to keep from getting stressed out.
Above all, remember -
BE THERE AND BE SUPPORTIVE