Having a Heart to Heart

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Heart to Heart

(Part 1)

By Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, R.N., B.S.N., Attorney and Dr. Mikol S. Davis, Psychologist

We usually think of a “heart to heart” conversation as one that is sincere, personal, even intimate. It may be a loving conversation, and it is at least one that is outside the realm of ordinary banter. When it comes to aging loved ones, a heart to heart conversation needs to happen about what might occur if our loved one can’t manage alone anymore. Does this thought make your stomach quiver.

This can be tricky territory. Culture can affect whether and how we approach such a serious subject. In some cultures, talking about becoming incapacitated is thought to bring on the thing discussed, and the subject is therefore avoided. Emotional makeup, communication styles, family patterns of self-disclosure and many other factors affect how easy or difficult it is to approach an elder about planning for the possibility of losing independence.

Our own discomfort level is also a factor. What is the relationship like with the aging parent? If the elder was not a pleasant parent, or a good parent, or is generally difficult, there is a corresponding difficulty in approaching him or her with questions about what Mom or Dad would want should the parent be unable to manage life without help in the future. Our own reluctance or even dread can hold us back.

What do we do if it’s hard for us to bring up the subject of planning for possible future incapacity? No one likes to think about it, but it’s a real possibility for anyone who lives a long time. More of our population is reaching 100 years of age than ever before. Life expectancy is increasing with advances in diagnosis, medicine and treatment for our body’s ills. Do you expect your elder to need help if he or she lives to be 85? 95? 100?

If you’re the adult child, a burden of caring for elders can fall on you, whether you are prepared or not. We urge you to have the talk you need to have with your aging parents now. In our next newsletter, we’ll go through the specifics of what to say, and how to deal with elders’ resistance to bringing up the subject.

If you didn’t make a new year’s resolution to sit down with your elders and address these subjects, perhaps you can make it your Valentine’s Day resolution. Have a heart to heart talk with the aging ones you love about how to plan ahead. It’s the loving thing to do.

© 2010, AgingParents.com

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