As your loved one ages, they might be showing signs that it is time for more care. Having these conversations can be difficult for both parties, and requires care and consideration. 

In our Senior Living LIVE! webinar How to Approach Difficult Conversations with Seniors, Allyson Stanton of Stanton Aging Solutions will explore how to prepare for, initiate, and have these difficult conversations.

To preview the full webinar, Allyson sat down to discuss the different things one can prepare for when planning to have a difficult conversation with a loved one. Click the recording to view the preview now, and make sure to register for the full webinar to learn more and have your questions answered live.

Video Transcript

- Hello everyone and welcome into "Senior Living LIVE". My name is Melissa. As always, I hope you are having a fantastic day today. Well, we are gearing up for our second webinar out of three for the month of May. Allyson Stanton of Stanton Aging Solutions will be our guest presenter, and she joins me now to discuss a few tips on how to approach difficult conversations with seniors. Alison, how are you today?

- Good morning, great. How are you?

- Doing great, and I think this is a wonderful topic because let's face it, there is a laundry list of topics to discuss with whether it's our aging parents or an aging spouse, there are many things that we need to discuss to get the proper answers, to know what their wishes are or what could potentially help them if they're declining in health, and these can be very difficult, and so you're going to help us navigate ways that we can kind of approach these conversations from maybe thinking a bit outside the box and giving people tips that maybe they hadn't thought of. So I assume like anything in life, one key is timing the sooner, the better, I assume. So why might that be the case when it comes to tough conversations?

- I think, like you started to say, just how important these conversations are, and a lot of what I do as a care manager and social worker is having necessary conversations, just being transparent, being honest with our loved ones. As far as timing, the timing's now. Let's be proactive, not reactive. Let's not wait for something to happen and have a voice. Give your loved one a voice, and if it's about yourself or for me, I have things in place. I want my family to know what I want, what I don't want, how I wanna be treated. We don't know our fate and what's gonna happen to us. So as far as timing, those discussions are now, and you can approach them carefully, patiently, you can call on someone to help you, but for me, the timing's now, if you wait, it's too late.

- Yeah, that's a great tip. If you wait, it's too late. That's very easy to remember. Now, one topic and conversation that can cause a lot of friction, no matter how old you are, no matter who it is is finances. So how can those types of discussions be handled in a way that nets a positive outcome?

- I think with all of these discussions, you're kinda discussing, how do you wanna be treated? And do you wanna age in place? Would you consider moving to a continuing care retirement community or an assisted living? So you go to where they are and what their goal is. In order to meet their goal, you kinda have to know what their finances are. "Well, mom, I know you wanna age in place, but you already have Parkinson's and this is a progressive disease and 24 hour care can run $20,000 a month. You don't have long-term care insurance, you don't have a big pension, so let's look at your savings and see if this is something you can afford." So you're kinda asking the question, but it's really to meet their needs, it's not getting in their business to find out maybe what you might inherit. Some people keep things really private, I'm not really sure why. Every family I work with is different. Some people hold things close to their chest, they wanna be in control of it, they don't wanna share, they don't wanna let go, sometimes there's trust. Again, I think it's just what I call a necessary conversation, "let's talk about this and let's see if this is an option for you." And a lot of our loved ones really don't wanna be a burden and when you ask them that and "Do you trust me? Do you trust me to help you if you have a decline or you have a change in status?" And if they say yes, and you can say, "Then can we look at this together? Can you share some things with me so we can have a plan in place when things change, if and when things change?"

- Yeah, what a great answer and a lot of food for thought in that answer. Thank you so much.

- You're welcome.

- So another topic of conversation that can be very difficult is end of life choices, and you touched on it just a little bit there. That can be difficult for all parties involved, so how can one approach that conversation?

- I think that goes back to answering question number one about, when do we have this discussions? And if we wait, it's too late, so let's have the discussion now. And for me, end of life and having end of life discussions, it's not about dying, it's about living, right? We all know the Terri Schiavo case, she was 29 and something horrible happened to her. We know how that went when things weren't in place. Something could happen to me, unfortunately, 'cause I'm in this field, I think this all the time, but not everybody does. So I think just saying to people, "If something happens to you, have you ever thought about how you wanna be treated?" And that goes back to having advanced directives in place and asking those questions and putting those things in place. And again, make it about living, not about dying and giving them a voice. So it's very empowering when someone gets to say what they want and they don't want.

- So I Know that if somebody has children, plural, more than one, there may be one child specifically that they may be gravitate to when it comes to these kinds of issues. But is it more beneficial to involve all family members or is there a time when it's okay to maybe single out one family member to tell them these things, or should everybody be involved?

- Well, I think it's good for everybody to be involved in certain situations, but again, it's about client choice, patient choice. So I might have five kids, but I might be estranged from one or, one maybe I don't want to make medical decisions for me, so I'm gonna maybe help with the finances and delegate that part of it, and the medical part, I'm going to have these other three kids kinda work together, but I always ask people, again, going back to the advanced directives and giving yourself a voice, "If you go to the hospital, something happens 911's called, the doctor has to pick up the phone in the ER and call a family member, who's that family member gonna be?" That tends to be typically who they want as their medical power of attorney, and I think when I word it that way, 'cause sometimes clients aren't really sure, "Well, I have four kids." and they're like, "Oh, definitely, Sally. I definitely want the doctor to call Sally." So Sally would be the one maybe to be the primary agent and the other ones, together, they can all decide. And I think if you have a whole family discussion, it's good to have a mediator, like a social worker or a care manager or an elder law attorney or somebody just to help everybody get on the same page and kinda lead the discussion.

- I love that idea. That diffuses a lot of hostility or anger that could potentially come up from this. So I love that idea, I think that is a great tip. Now, we start to talk about, we're discussed in your living a little bit and if the loved one is in declining health, and your example was somebody with Parkinson's, and safety becomes a factor for them, how can someone approach that topic, especially if the loved one is in denial about what's happening to them?

- I think, making sure that they have talked to their physician. A lot of times, people will trust their physician, "We have a diagnosis, are there treatment options? What is this diagnosis is gonna mean for me?" So if I have a neurocognitive impairment, I'm gonna learn that it's gonna be progressive. It's gonna go through stages, right? So then we can not make any decisions, I feel, unless we're informed, right? So the first thing is to be informed, and then once you're informed, then pull in local resources, whether it's the Office on Aging, again, social worker or care manager, the physician and have somebody help you have these discussions.

- Yeah. Now, if someone is watching this and they still want to attend to be a part of your webinar, but they wanna reach out to you right now, they're in the midst of going through this and just need a little bit of help, how can they contact you?

- So my website is www.stantonagingsolutions.com. And on that is my phone number and my email, or just call my cell phone. 443-812-1028 and there is help and resources all over 'cause I think this webinar's going many places. So I'm happy to direct people to the right place to get the support they need, because it is out there for you.

- Yeah, and if you do sign up for the webinar and you attend, you will be there to answer everyone's questions, so that's the big key to those webinars, is you get to kinda have a one-on-one and sort of test the waters or dip the toe in, so to speak, during these presentations.

- I love that.

- Allyson Stanton, thank you so much for taking the time, for us today, and of course, to share your knowledge with us during your webinar, How to Approach Difficult Conversations With Seniors. It is May 11th, noon Eastern, we will see you then.

- Thank you.

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