Caregiving Conversations...How Do You Get Started?

Part of being a good caregiver is talking with those who will need care and those who might help you give it - so everyone's on the same page with needs and expectations.

9 Questions to Ask the People You Love

Aging with Dignity Resource Tools

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First of all, it's important to have the conversation. It's important to have the conversation early and often, because this whole idea of caregiving is dynamic. What you want today may be different than what you want next week.

It's also important to have that conversation before there's a crisis, so that everybody gets on the same page, everybody understands not only what the care recipients' wishes are, but for instance, engaging your siblings, so that each sibling knows what's expected of them. And also gives the siblings a chance to voice what they feel that they're capable of contributing, and what they're willing to contribute. So that there's no surprises, and especially now with families scattered all across the country. It could be that your sister, who's out on the west coast, cannot provide that physical, hands on support, but maybe they can help to contribute financially. Or they can be the coordinator of mom and dad's finances while they're receiving care.

So, defining roles and expectations is really important, and doing it before there's a crisis situation.

We like to recommend that you have these conversations during happy times. So, Thanksgiving is a great time, everyone's got a full belly, and warm and fuzzy. So have these conversations when everyone is feeling upbeat. I tell the story of my father, who ... well, before he started to ail, had a great sense of humor, and we were sitting around and I said, "Dad, if you ever got really sick, what would you like to have happen?" So these are intimate, personal conversations, and my father was of the generation where he held a lot of that stuff very close, so it was awkward to start the conversation, so what are the open ended questions you can ask, so I said, "What would you like?" So, he says, "Well, I definitely don't want to come move in with you." And I thought my husband was going to fall off his chair.

As much as I hated having him in an institution so to speak. It was the right thing, and that's what he asked for. And he made it known when he was still articulate and ambulatory and healthy and could make a joke about it.

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