passing month, our loved ones have ups and downs in
their health profile. During the down times, we
think about how the future can be managed when those we
care for cannot provide any input. The questions
and concerns stick to the roof of our mouths, unsaid.
subject may have been tried time and again, with your
parent or spouse changing the subject or outright
refusing to discuss it. We may be in the next
millennium, but the concepts of “breadwinner” or “head
of the house” continue in our society. The need
for one partner to retain the role while being ill
creates enough of a power struggle within the
individual, let alone the partnership of caregiver to
The best way to
begin the subject is by doing your own research.
There are a number of resources online that will help
you compile enough information to have answers and
options. The Alzheimer’s Association has a 24/7
helpline to assist caregivers with any questions they
may have, ranging from service referrals to finding the
appropriate legal professional. However, your
family member may not be experiencing dementia or a
related condition, and a 1 a.m. phone call to any crisis
line is not the way to start planning.
The goal of
planning ahead is allowing you and your loved one to
share and live your lives fully, without the fears that
come with thinking about the future. Real or
imagined, these “what ifs” create anxiety. Stress
clouds problem solving ability, and partial or total
caregiving generates enough stress.
You may want to
seek a referral to a legal professional to make an
appointment on your own, to be guided to the possible
avenues that must be addressed in this planning.
You can feel free to ask questions in any manner,
without your loved one being affected. Be blunt,
express your fears, and have complete information with
you. This allows you to focus on the complete
compiled information, sketch out a plan for yourself.
The best way to begin a conversation about planning for
the future is by showing your family member that you
have concerns for your own possible needs. You
won’t have the same prognosis, but the willingness to
acknowledge that planning is for everyone, regardless of
health, is a door opener.
It’s hard to do
the homework alone. You may find help through
friends or family members who can be trusted to keep the
research project quiet, until you can bring up the
subject. When parents are involved, one spouse may
be able to develop a plan for their partner to discuss
with Mom and Dad. An interested, compassionate
mate usually has the ability to provide suggestions you
may not feel comfortable entertaining.
can often feel pressure if you “make a date” to discuss
planning. Annette F. has found that each
conversation can add pieces to the “what to do” puzzle.
However, when her father is approached with specifics,
he becomes resistant to discussion. You may find
the same thing happening, and this is where turning the
situation to your eventual needs can break the ice.
The time to have the puzzle completed isn’t at the last
minute, when social services must be called to make
vary in their ability to guide an individual beyond the
eventual “In Trust For” designations on account.
Private banks that focus on developing close
relationships with depositors may have more programs
available. No one wants to lose control over their
financial resources, and a discussion of escrow
accounts, eldercare and investment options provide
Keep the talks
short, informative, and offhand. “I was thinking
about this as a plan in case I have any problems” is a
great opener, especially when followed by “What do you
think?” Letting a family member help you decide
about your future needs shows them you trust their
decisions and advice, too. After some discussion
about your needs, ask “What do you want to do?”
It’s possible you’ll get some evasion, but gently
persisting at this interval might make a difference.
world is sometimes closed off to interactions with
others. Unless you are in a support group, you may
not have friends who have been down this road. The
ability to bring up a situation that a social
acquaintance has experienced with planning may not be
available. It’s not totally closed off, however.
There are articles in the paper and magazines that point
out situations people have experienced when they plan
with positive intent.
focusing on the negative things that can happen when
planning isn’t done with timely direction, bring your
attention to what can happen. “You know, if we
took care of planning our care needs right now, we’d
have a few extra dollars by the end of the year to take
that trip” is positively focused. It allows your
loved one to address the issue as mutual (“our”), gives
them an ability to decide with you, and most
importantly, offers a future option for a welcome event.
We all have a
fear of naming our illnesses and problems. Some
lawyers still haven’t made funeral arrangements, even
though they encourage their clients to do so before
family must do it for them. This is all part of
being human and the hidden superstitions we carry about
the Murphy’s Law of mentioning something negative, and
it happening right after.
In spite of
mortality statistics for given diseases, as caregivers,
we may be the ones who fall ill first. Blindsided
by your own problems, there is a need for you to think
of yourself, too.
family members are involved, everyone has an opinion on
how the issue should be approached. Since more
than one opinion can help or hurt a discussion, consider
having one family member be the spokesperson, keeping
the same considerations for the person’s ability to
tolerate an intense talk.
Be sure everyone
is on the same wavelength before having a discussion, to
avoid not only misunderstandings, but the later need to
have another discussion once everything is settled.
You may be the primary caregiver, but circumstances may
need to be changed if unforeseen events happen.
Even reticent family can be asked for input, which will
bring them closer to your circle.
Focus on the
positive aspects of planning, briefly addressing
extremes that may happen. Without advance planning
the court may have to be called in, and the family may
have limited decision making power, let alone the
patient. Planning is a method of preventing last
to look within and assess how they feel about planning
before they can sit down to have a productive chat.
Information, research, and support systems provide the
means to get things done. They are only partially
useful if you haven’t come to peace with that portion of
You and your
family member are caring for one another by making these
decisions together. They are protecting you as much as
you are looking out for them. One way to start the
conversation is by saying, “I need your help with
American Bar Association’s
printable kit to assist with planning care.
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