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Caregiver Advice: When NOT to have the talk, aging parents

elderly and holidays

At this time of year, families often come together to celebrate the holidays. For caregivers who live at a distance from their aging parents, it may be the first time they have seen their loved one in some time. Caregivers may notice changes and have concerns about how their aging parents are managing at home. Or, you may have limited time off from work and the holidays may be the time when you can fly in to visit your aging parents and handle various tasks.

Unfortunately, the holidays can be the worst time for having serious discussions about your eldercare concerns. Our caregiver advice is generally to avoid timing these conversations at the holidays. You can read more about the alternative approaches we suggest for caregivers at the holidays.

Why do we advise caregivers to avoid “the talk” at the holidays?

First and foremost, our caregiver advice is not to think of care conversations as one “talk” but an ongoing conversation that evolves over time. When broaching delicate subjects, everyone needs time to process and not feel rushed about decision-making. The best approach is to be proactive. Of course, we know that many families attempt to talk about these issues but get rebuffed. If you are having difficulty, we suggest a few resources: our guest blog post on Inside Eldercare, Seven Ways to Talk to Your Aging Parents about Home Help; our eldercare communications tips, Help! Mom Won’t Listen to Me! and a few of our caregiver reading suggestions cover this topic in-depth. You can also schedule a consultation with one of our caregiver coaches for a customized approach.

What’s a better approach to eldercare issues at the holidays?

Holiday family time is precious, especially with older loved ones who you don’t see often. In our rush to get everything done, we can cause great damage to the relationship and make things harder in the long run. If possible, schedule visits at other times in the year/more frequently or plan a longer visit this holiday so that there is time for both visiting and handling tasks.

Emotions tend to run high during the holidays. Stress and grief feelings may come to the surface. You may need to reset your expectations about the holidays, but you can still try to maintain aspects of traditions and enjoy time together.

In the course of spending time together, you can perhaps have smaller conversations about some of these issues. With a relaxed atmosphere it may be an ideal time to discuss general thoughts and desires related to aging. It is also a good time to observe how your loved one is managing.

We know ideal is not always possible, but planning can help you to have a smoother journey as a caregiver. Talk about an approach with other family members and set up a schedule for visits. Consider hiring a geriatric care manager to help you monitor the situation. Talk about how home caregivers might help, before there’s a crisis.

And, while you’re in town visiting, if you notice concerns, give us a call (727-447-5845). We’d be glad to talk through eldercare options and share our caregiver advice!

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