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Have These Conversations!

10 Age-Old Questions to Ask About Caregiving

Someone you love is likely going to need caregiving as they age. The need may be for short or long term care and the care may be required at home or in a hospital or facility. You may be their spouse, child, or friend — or it may be you. Whichever situation arises, there are some critical conversations that need to occur before that time comes.

Although these conversations can be difficult or tense, I guarantee having them before a crisis takes place will reduce the stress your family experiences once the care is actually required. As an owner of a caregiving business, I have a unique view of what families experience as their loved ones age. It has taught me some profound lessons regarding what conversations to have before circumstances force urgent decisions — and as one’s health worsens, these conversations get harder, not easier.

Here are the basic discussions you should have (and if you are over 50 and don’t know what these are, find out!):

  1. Are Living Wills in place including the selection of Powers of Attorney (POA) and an indication as to whether or not you wish to have a Do Not Resuscitate order?
  2. Have you discussed your wishes in detail with your POAs, Doctor, Lawyer and family? Have you given them copies of important documents?
  3. Is your wish to age at home or in a seniors-oriented facility?
  4. If you want to age at home, is the house ready? Consider: bedroom location, bathroom accessibility, navigating stairs, where a caregiver might sleep, and devices to maximize safety.
  5. If a couple is aging at home, what happens if one person’s health changes?
  6. Are family members willing to provide ongoing, hands-on care if needed? Do they appreciate what that may involve?
  7. If immediate family doesn’t live close by, is there a plan in place to meet your loved ones’ urgent needs? If you’re out of town and a loved one needs help, is there a plan?
  8. Are regular visits from professional caregivers an option to enable a loved one to live at home as long as possible? Have you considered 24 hour or live-in care?
  9. Do you have a company you trust that can help explain how professional care works?
  10. Do you know a company you can call to get a professional caregiver quickly if required? Are you already set up with them so you can get help on short notice?

One of the biggest challenges I see families face is when a fall (one of the most common crises) leads to an injury that is very hard to recover from fully. Preventing falls is probably the single greatest way to preserve quality of life as we age. Talk to your loved ones about preparing their home and how regular care would be arranged should an emergency arise. Being proactive regarding both of these issues can meaningfully reduce the risk and consequences of falls.

I talk to the children of seniors constantly about the challenge of arranging care for a parent who resists it. Ironically, despite the benefits of having a caregiver, the idea makes people uneasy as they feel they will be less independent and less dignified. Often they fear the “slippery slope” receiving care can represent (to be fair, it’s more often men who feel this way). In my experience however, the opposite is true — having a caregiver enables more independence, a safer home, and offers tremendous relief for your family.

Respect how hard it is to adjust to this phase of life. Have these conversations. Honour their wishes.

For an explanation and example of a Living Will, go to http://www.jcb.utoronto.ca/tools/documents/jcb_livingwill.pdf


DAVID BERNSTEIN is the owner of Caregiver Services Ltd. The firm has been working with families, providing professional caregivers for seniors since 2002. caregiverservices.ca

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