Here’s a lightly updated version of an article we first ran on Nov. 17, 2014. This is news most of us will eventually need to use.
We’re all heading into the Thanksgiving holidays full of memories of advice articles about how to communicate with relatives about general retirement issues and long-term care (LTC) issues at family gatherings.
November is both Long-Term Care Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers’ Month for a reason — it’s the month when we think we should have difficult conversations.
Often, those conversations end up being so difficult to start that all of us, including your clients, have the conversations mainly inside the confines of our own skulls. When we do start the conversations, we may give offense and lead to a worse outcome than if we had just talked about how cold the weather has been.
Dr. Barbara Nusbaum, a psychologist who focuses on the intersection between psychology and financial issues, talked about the “big Thanksgiving conversation” issue recently at a Long-Term Care Awareness event organized by Genworth.
To learn five of her ideas about how to handle that conversation, read on.
1. Don’t actually try to talk to your mother about when she’s going into a nursing home on Thanksgiving itself.
Nusbaum says the last thing most people really want to do is to get their parents upset by starting difficult conversations on Thanksgiving.
“Bring it up at a quieter time,” Nusbaum said.
People who are staying with loved ones over the weekend could try starting the conversation on Friday, Nusbaum said.
2. If you’re thinking about more than one loved one, talk about the one who’s easiest to talk to.
People who are comfortable talking about LTC planning with the “easier loved one” could just start the conversation then, Nusbaum said.
3. Listen to what your relatives have to say. Gather information.
Especially when relatives may be uncomfortable with talking about LTC issues, listening, and taking an indirect approach to the topic, may work better than bulldozing ahead, Nusbaum said.
4. Ask them how they handled caregiving.
Many older people who hate talking about their own LTC needs may be comfortable with talking about their own older relatives, Nusbaum said.
“Ask, ‘How did you take care of your parents?’” she suggested, “‘How did that work?’”
That, she said, could lead to the question, “How would you like to be cared for?”
5. Ask the relatives for advice about what you should do about planning for your own LTC needs.
Many people are more comfortable with giving advice than getting it, and older relatives might have good advice, Nussbaum said. She said hearing the advice loved ones give might be a good way to find out what they would want for themselves.