Take Time Over Holidays to Discuss Long-Term Care with Loved Ones
The holidays mark a time when families gather for extended visits to reminisce about the year that passed and share plans about what lies ahead for their loved ones. That makes the occasion an opportune time to begin the difficult but all-important conversation about long-term care.
“Talking about long-term care is never easy, which is so many people put off the conversation,” said PHCA President and CEO Russ McDaid. “But because they put it off, many families find themselves unprepared and overwhelmed when the time comes to help a loved one in need.”
It may seem counterintuitive to discuss such a weighty issue during a season of celebration, but McDaid said that homey relaxed atmosphere, when the extended family is together rather than spread across different locations, is exactly what makes it the perfect time to share stories about life.
“Getting your loved one to focus on and speak about this topic can be challenging,” McDaid said during a taping of a statewide public affairs TV program that will begin airing this weekend. “But having a conversation about the need for long-term care is in the best interest of the entire family, and it’s a discussion where the whole family can benefit and provide support.”
McDaid said before beginning the conversation, know the basics of long-term care and what’s available in the community. Providing educated answers can lessen hesitation and fear.
Pennsylvania has a robust continuum of care, including nursing homes, which provide 24-hour continuous health-care; assisted living facilities, which provide help with daily living needs and offer some basic health services; and personal care homes, which allow for housing and meals for individuals who are unable to care for themselves but do not need intensive medical care.
Each setting offers quality services tailored to the needs of the individual. The most important consideration when trying to decide what is right is understanding each unique situation, whether related to personal preferences or health-care needs, McDaid said. And when the time is right, visit a few options first.
McDaid offered these tips for starting the conversation:
- Talk sooner rather than later. Have the conversation about long-term care before the need arises.
- Prepare yourself. Take the initiative by doing your homework and offering options.
- Prepare your loved one. Ask permission to have the discussion. Choose a place to have this conversation where you know your loved one is comfortable.
- Stay positive. Understand that it is normal to encounter resistance the first time you bring up long-term care. Don’t be discouraged, just plan to try again at another time.
- Be a good listener. It is important for you to understand what is best for your loved one when it comes to long-term care, so spend most of the conversation listening.
- Show respect. Acknowledge your loved one’s right to make choices.
- Include others in the decision-making. But always keep in mind the wishes of the person whose care you’re discussing.
“Remember, this is about starting the conversation, not finishing it,” McDaid said. “Things don’t have to be decided in a day. This is a difficult conversation for everyone involved — for the person who may need the care, for the person who may have to arrange it, for the whole family. But beginning the conversation means you’ll be better prepared to accommodate the wishes of your loved one when the time comes.”
The Pennsylvania Health Care Association manages a consumer guide to help families understand the state’s different levels of long-term care so they can make the best choice. Visit www.phca.org and click on “For Consumers” for tips and information about starting the conversation. Visit www.FindPaCare.org to find a skilled nursing facility, assisted living residence or personal care home in Pennsylvania.
“Pennsylvania Newsmakers” is one of the state’s premier politics and public policy television talk shows. The show is available at www.phca.org and will air regionally:
- WGAL Channel 8 (Harrisburg and Lancaster) Sunday, November 19 at 11:30 AM
- WBPH (Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia) Monday, November 20 at 8:30 PM
- WKBS 47 (Altoona) Saturday, November 25 at 9:30 AM
- WPCB 40 (Pittsburgh) Saturday, November 25 at 9:30 AM
- Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) Saturday, November 18 at 6:30 AM