Get Comfortable Talking About Uncomfortable Things

By Roz Jones

There are things you generally don’t talk about in polite company- politics and religion top the list. Being considerate about tricky topics is a good thing. Avoiding uncomfortable things helps people feel at ease but sometimes you have to get comfortable talking about uncomfortable things. 

Talking about death, dying, and making plans might feel morbid but it is a necessary part of living. Being able to share your thoughts about things like: 

  • What sort of care you consent to in the event of an accident or injury
  • If you want to be revived or kept on life support
  • Where you want to live in the event you can’t live at home
  • Who should make medical or other decisions on your behalf if you are unable
  • Your thoughts on funeral planning and burial options
  • And more 

One of the reasons it’s so hard to talk about uncomfortable things is the feeling there is little control. The truth is, if you do not have plans in place, you’ll have very little control but if you do have plans in place, much of your care and aftercare is well within your control. All the more reason to have tough talks!  

Here are some tips for getting comfortable talking about uncomfortable things

Tip #1. Do your homework- The more you know about a subject, the less uncomfortable it is. There’s nothing you can’t learn about any subject connected to the legal, financial, and medical aspects of end-of-life care. Educate yourself and you will be well equipped to have intelligent and easier talks about the subjects. 

Tip #2. Prepare your audience- If you are going to have an uncomfortable discussion, prepare your family or friends beforehand. Don’t blindside someone with a tough talk they may not be emotionally ready for. Instead, give them time to get ready and be mentally prepared to absorb what you need to share. 

Tip #3. Practice- The more often you talk about uncomfortable things, the easier it will be. Start with professionals like clergy, medical staff, or attorneys before chatting with family or friends. Practicing your conversation will help you find the best words to use as well as become more comfortable speaking them. 

Some conversations are going to be tough no matter what. Being able to speak about uncomfortable things more comfortably helps those who depend on you feel safer and more prepared to help when the time comes. Get comfortable by doing your homework, prepping your audience, and practicing your conversation beforehand. 

End-of-Life Planning – Why Does It Matter?

By Roz Jones

Thinking of end-of-life matters can feel uncomfortable and cause some anxiety. It isn’t common to think about the end of life when it seems so far off. Planning for retirement might feel more comfortable because the thought of spending time doing the things you love – rather than working towards retiring – is exciting and rewarding after a long career; however, it’s just as important to think about and plan for the inevitable winding down of life. 

There’s no easy way to think about death or even an illness or accident. It’s much easier to think about being vital and healthy. Focusing on health is important. Doing the things you can to stay healthy – like eating right, exercising, and keeping a healthy mindset – is sure to help keep you fit and focused on a great life. Not thinking about end-of-life matters won’t make the inevitable any easier or make it go away. One thing we all have in common is we are going to pass away – we just don’t know when or how. It’s life’s biggest personal mystery. 

End-of-life planning matters because there are many things you can do to make things easier for yourself and your family. There are steps you can take to be ready if/when you face an accident, an illness, or your life ends. Many people are afraid to “tempt fate” or “bring about what you think about.” These are immature ways of looking at a very mature subject. 

End-of-life planning isn’t just about your funeral. It’s about important aspects of living such as: 

  • Protecting your assets
  • Having important medical documents if you are unable to communicate
  • Having income for retirement, illness, or long-term care
  • Communicating your wishes with others

And

  • Pre-need funeral planning 

It might feel strange thinking about or taking action regarding end-of-life matters but, like anything else, the more you engage in the tasks, the easier and more natural they will feel. Before you know it, speaking to professionals about your needs and sharing the information with your family will feel a lot less odd and a lot more responsible – something to be proud of. 

Don’t let the fear of the unknown and the morbid aspects of end of life planning scare you. Be brave and do what it takes to plan ahead so you and your family are prepared and ready when your start to face end-of-life issues. 

Guilt Helps Nobody

Roz Jones

If the job of being a caregiver only involved giving help to your aging parent such as doing the dishes and helping fill out the Medicare paperwork, your life would be considerably easier.  And if that were the case, even if there was a lot to do, the problem of caregiver burn out would not be such an issue.

But the real drain on you and even on the senior citizen you are taking care of comes in the emotional toll that the care giving relationship brings with it.  Because the “assumed understanding” of the care giving relationship is based on the extended giving of a very large favor, guilt becomes a common element in every aspect of the time you spend with your aging parent.

It’s very easy for the senior citizen to feel guilty for asking you for the work you do to take care of him.  It’s a strange situation because in most cases, they never asked.  You may have stepped in because you saw your parent’s life beginning to unravel and you knew that someone had to help get his retired life organized.  And yet, the senior citizen feels a lot of guilt because you are giving him huge amounts of time and that is time away form your family and maybe your work to do things for him unpaid and very often without thanks.

It doesn’t help that the time of transition from independence to assisted care is one of huge loss of self esteem for your aging parent.  There are a lot of tremendous changes that happen in rapid order for y our parent and they happen in areas of life that have remained unchanged for decades.  If inside of a year your mom or dad go through a loss of their home to go live in an assisted living facility, loss of mobility because they cannot drive and loss of independence because everything is being done for them, that causes a lot of negative emotions.  Guilt makes its appearance because they feel irrationally that if they had not grown old, this would never have happened.

But guilt also is an issue for you, the caregiver.  There always seems to be something more you could be doing for your parents.  It doesn’t help that the senior citizen you work so hard to care for also inflicts guilt on you by whining, “I wish you never had to go home” or by complaining about their lives and getting angry. 

So what can be done about all of this guilt?  Guilt doesn’t make the relationship better and it doesn’t improve the quality of life for the caregiver or from the senior being cared for.  So whatever we can do to shut it down would be a positive step for both parties.

Probably the most proactive thing you can do about guilt is confront it directly.  Sit down with your aging mom or dad and get those guilt feelings out in the open.  It’s not their fault they got old.  Your parent should not feel guilty about being cared for by you.  After all they cared for you for decades when you were just a child and young adult. 

But taking the teeth out of guilt, you have a real chance of getting that out of your relationship.  By learning not to put guilt on each other, you become a team in care giving, not combatants.  And these are positive steps toward a healthy senior citizen and caregiver relationship.

Ease into Caregiving

Roz Jones

There is one axiom that if your parents don’t pass away young in life, you are going to watch them age.  Now for the most part, this is a natural and nice part of life because mom and dad can slowly become grandma and grandpa which are nice roles for them after working so hard to raise you.

But a corollary to that axiom is that if mom and dad are going to age, at some point you are going to begin helping them with the daily affairs of life.  And that occasional helping will escalate as their needs grow strong until you will become a full-fledged caregiver for an elderly person.

For many, the time when you suddenly become a caregiver is just that – sudden.  It happens often after the death of a parent and the widowed parent suddenly becomes needy because of the loss they are experiencing.  For married couples who have been together for decades, that loss is equivalent to the loss of a limb and far more devastating so that may be the time when you suddenly go from having few concerns for your aging parent to having many.

It might be strange to look at it this way, but the more you can ease into care giving, the more time you have to get used to it, for your elderly parent or parents to get used and for your family, forefends and coworkers to get used to it.  And if you can step in and make some minor changes to the environment of your aging parent, you may be able to delay the time when they become very dependent on you. 

If your parent or parents are still living in their own home, there are things you can do to make their living space more accessible and safe including…

  • Create a lifestyle that is all on one level.  Stairs can become a hazard for an elderly person.  So early in your plans to adapt their living space, move them into a ground floor bedroom and put all significant rooms, including the kitchen, the pantry, the laundry room and the living room are on the same level. 
  • Take some of the work out of daily chores.  Most local grocery stores will deliver food to the elderly so you can make those arrangements for your aging parent.  You can also find services that work by the hour that come in and clean the house, do simple repairs and chores and take care of the business of home ownership for your parents.
  • You can make arrangements with home  health care professionals to drop by for an hour or two a week just to make sure your parents medications are still safe to use, that all prescriptions have been filled and that your parent understands their medications and when and how to take them.
  • Reorganize the kitchen so things your parent will use every day are on an eye level shelf and are easy to get to and to put away after washing.  Make sure the toaster oven, microwave and other important appliances are also easy to get to and that your parent is comfortable with these units if the models that may have come with the assisted living center are not familiar to them.
  • Go through the house and make it easy for your parent to use.  You can put in those walking and grab bars along the halls and in the bathtub and other places where your mom or dad might need the additional support.  You can check the lights so there are plenty of visibility for what your parents have to do.

To really take the preparation of your parent’s living space for their ease of use and safety, look at pulling emergency pull ropes in every room.  These units are used extensively in assisted care units and they make it possible for your parent to pull that cord if she is in trouble and set off an alarm or call to you or to emergency care, should there be a sudden medical need.

By working to make your parent’s work area easy to use and safe, you can do a lot to put off the time when your mom or dad may have to move to a retirement village or nursing home.  And you keep them independent which allows you to slowly ease into care giving which is much easier on everybody.