The Practical Caregiver - Talking about Transitions

As a caregiver, you are naturally committed to ensuring that your loved one remains as independent as possible—and right now that may mean assistance in living at home. But looking to the future, changes in your circumstances or your loved one's health might make a move to an assisted living community necessary. It's better for both of you to explore your options now, to anticipate an occasion that might not happen, rather than to be caught unprepared.

Do Your Homework

There's no doubt, however, that for many caregivers, even introducing the subject can be difficult. They approach the conversation with some trepidation, knowing that they may be raising painful issues or provoking an angry reaction. And while many caregivers may be pleasantly surprised by their loved one's flexibility and willingness to discuss future living arrangements, it's just common sense to be prepared. If you want to talk about housing alternatives, visit local communities beforehand so you can describe the available choices. If you think finances will enter the discussion, you should know ahead of time the kinds of questions you need to ask to develop a firm understanding of your loved one's financial situation.

Encourage Give and Take

It's not enough, however, to be knowledgeable about the topic of the conversation. You also need to have a strategy for conducting it. Choose a moment when you won't be interrupted and when you and your loved one are calm and rested. Whenever possible, phrase your concerns as questions. Don't try to control the conversation.

If you want to have your concerns heard, it's important that you invite them to raise their concerns as well. Begin the conversation in an open-ended way. For instance, you might ask them about their biggest worries or the goals in life that they would like to achieve. The idea is to establish common ground, and their remarks might open the door to the issues you want to discuss.

If your conversation is inconclusive, don't be discouraged. You have broken the ice, learned more about their priorities, and now have additional information that may help you devise a solution that works well for all concerned.