Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Using the Holidays to Your Advantage

The holidays are the time of year when even far away family members travel in order to gather together. This makes the holidays the perfect time to do some planning for the future. With parents aging and their health and lifestyles changing, children need to discuss some changes and decisions that will be needed in the near future. Parents should take the time to tell their children where important documents are kept and what their wishes are in the event of needing health care directives or experiencing long term care needs.

For those children who live away, the change they see in their parent's health and mental capacity may be alarming -- whereas siblings that have daily contact are working with these issues constantly. Here is the chance to compare notes and work together as a complete family in the long term care planning process.

For you parents who are well and active, this is a good time to hold a family meeting and share with your children your plan for long term care. Tell them where financial and legal documents are located. Review health care directives, living wills and long term care alternatives.

Experience has shown that even families that are close can quickly grow angry, jealous and hostile towards each other when an aging parent begins to need long term care. If a sibling moves into the parent's home, others can easily be suspicious of ulterior motives and fear losing their inheritance. On the other hand, the child who assumes the role of caregiver becomes bitter and feels there is no support or help from siblings. Meetings for the purpose of making a plan, before eldercare becomes imminent, avoids these types of conflicts.

In its book, The 4 Steps of Long Term Care Planning, the National Care Planning Council provides guidelines and checklists for family planning meetings. Here are some suggestions as taken from the book:
  • Get all interested persons together in one place at one time. Taking advantage of the holidays or another special event can be a great way to get everyone together. If this isn't conducive, then perhaps a special dinner might be an incentive.
  • Depending on the circumstances surrounding the meeting, the facilitator can be the parent, caregiver, family friend, or a professional advisor. 
  • The agenda can be formal or informal. If you want a formal agenda, then a care plan should be prepared prior to the meeting and presented to all attendees. The facilitator should work to encourage input from everyone involved through active discussion.  
  • After a thorough discussion of the issues and the presentation of the solutions to the problems that will be encountered, there should be a consensus of all attending to support the plan. It is not always possible to please everyone so there must sometimes be compromise.  
  • The end of the meeting should consist of asking everyone present to make his or her commitment to support the plan. GET IT IN WRITING! All good intentions seem to be forgotten with time. It may be years after this meeting before the long term care plan begins.
The U.S Department of Health and Human Services states: "No one wants to think about a time when they might need long-term care. So planning ahead for this possibility often gets put off. Most people first learn about long-term care when they or a loved one need care. Then their options are often limited by lack of information, the immediate need for services, and insufficient resources to pay for preferred services. Planning ahead allows you to have more control over your future."

Whether you plan a formal meeting with an agenda or informally gather for a discussion, when the family is together make it a point to start the long term care planning process. There is a lot to learn and many decisions to make concerning finances, health issues and legal work. It may take research and a lot of time to put a plan together, but if everyone is involved it will work, and be worth it.

For more information, please visit Home Care Assistance or the National Care Planning Council


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