By Jennifer Tucker, Vice-President, Homewatch CareGivers International, a home care brand whose locations provide care and support to elders so they can age safely in their own homes.
Going home for the holidays can be a joyous time of celebrating and reminiscing with loved ones. It's also a time to check in with relatives, and make sure everyone is doing well, especially elder relatives who are living on their own. The holidays are sometimes the only time the entire family is together, free from the usual daily distractions of work and responsibilities out of the home. This creates an ideal time to sit down and have some tough conversations. Talking openly and honestly with your loved ones this holiday season is the first step in figuring out the best options for their long-term care.
Take this opportunity to be caring and observant for any potential problems that your elder loved one may have a difficult time expressing to you. Is the food in the kitchen fresh or are there items past past their expiration date in the fridge? Is the mail being opened and properly sorted? Do they seem confused about your name or get you mixed up with other family members?
As an adult child, this is a pivotal point in your relationship with your parents. The first questions we often ask are: what can I do? How do I make sure they receive care? How are they going to pay for the support they need? It is, however, important to remain calm and understanding of your parents' wishes and needs. Providing loving support and a promise to walk this next road together can help both of you make the best possible decisions.
Set aside a private time away from the holiday festivities to ask your relatives how they are doing. Remember to listen. Rather than offer to 'help', talk with them about their needs. From there, you can work together to find solutions to meet these needs. Maybe there are medical issues, which will need to be addressed by a doctor. Help provide them with the resources necessary to find one they trust and offer to drive them to an appointment or arrange a ride for them. Or perhaps they need a little assistance around the house with basic chores. Offer to help them research home care companies, or interview care providers. Taking a collaborative approach to this situation, rather than an intrusive one, can help to leave your loved ones feeling empowered, instead of demeaned by the experience.
Once the concerns are sufficiently established, the next step is figuring out how to pay for things such as long-term care, if that is needed.
When talking to loved ones about their current and future long-term care needs, ask if they might have a long-term care insurance policy. Surveys show that the majority of older adults prefer to live in their homes as they age instead of relocating to an assisted living facility and long-term care insurance has the potential to support this desire.
Most modern long-term care policies are created based on the preferences of the person, so if your relative has a policy and wants to age at home, there is a good chance their policy reflects that, and covers home care. Home care providers can offer support in activities - such as bathing, toileting, dressing, meal preparation, cleaning and transportation - that can be the key to keeping your loved one in their home.
One of the greatest gifts you can give this holiday season, is one of love and caring for your family's wellbeing as their needs change.