Sep 15, 2017

Planning Difficult Conversations With Older Parents

Many Baby Boomers are currently faced with the difficult and emotionally challenging scenarios of making decisions on what is the best support or care service to be provided to their elderly parents and loved ones. Or, perhaps it is the Boomer that is worried about these decisions for themselves and the stress they do not want for their own children to make.

Fear Not! There are a number of information services, planning; and guidance professional you can talk issues out with to get the right answers and the best outcomes you are looking for. The topic you need to find information on is Advanced Care Directives and Planning.

There is no set time or standards to decide on when the conversation is needed, however, there are a number of triggers that will indicate to you that the time is right “Now”. Look for those triggers that will make you think “What If”.

  • Increase in falls
  • Significant loss of weight
  • Increase in confusion
  • Medical diagnosis
  • They raise the question itself
  • Significant events (small crisis)

My first point of reference would be to establish a strong rapport with your GP (MD), and second a registered nurse that can assist you in health education on this subject. If you are involved in the partnership with your parents GP all the better. Other health professionals are also handy, however, I would recommend that you speak with professional and registered counsellors or practitioners that fully understand the elderly lifespan and transition and the Advanced Care Planning process. Surprisingly many health professionals will wait until their client asks about the issues and many clients will wait until the health professional raises concern. Usually, the catch 22 arrives and no planning has been done as no conversation has been raised. This leaves open gaps in providing quality care or direct requests of your loved ones.

Gain all the information that you will require to prepare and plan the conversation you will have with your loved one. The best thing to support the rationale for any conversation is to have the education of evidence-based practice at hand. The best evidence is the platform that the government funded health care system offers through the different peak bodies and Attorney Generals office. Remember this conversation may be easy for you to have , but will be complex, unwarranted and considered too early for your loved one. If you are prepared with easy information for them to read and understand it will soften the process.

Be kind and courteous to your listener and remember that this whole issue is one about love, respect, quality of life and control over the end of life for individuals. For many people, when it comes to dealing with the end of life issues, it is usually a crisis that could have been avoided through early conversation, planning and collaboration on health care outcomes when they arrive. I would recommend that the whole process  focuses on what your elderly loved one thinks about the conversation being had at all, and if they wish to investigate the options.

The best evidence we have is that early planning that is regularly reviewed is the best outcome in care needs. There is no law that states all people should have an Advanced Care Directive or (living will) however the lived experience is that when we have this information at the time that it is needed and can or should be used, the benefits for the individual and the family reinforces control and decision making and allows a focus on quality care at the end of life.

This content was originally published on Dr Drew – A Big Man Talking

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