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Planning and having ‘the talk’ about care options with your loved one

For most adults, strong will and independence have been key ingredients to successful lives. While those are sturdy values, that independent streak can get in the way when it comes to accepting help. Many caregivers will encounter this initial roadblock when discussing care options with their loved ones.

In addition to celebrating together over the holidays, family gatherings can present the perfect time to check in to see how older family members are doing. Some may find that mom, dad, grandma or grandpa could use a little extra help with meals, transportation, chores or personal care.

Start by observing

The holidays allow time for you and other family members to check in on a loved one you might fear is having trouble living on their own. You can do this unobtrusively both by asking open-ended questions and making observations if you are visiting that loved one’s home. Is the refrigerator full? Are household chores like snow shoveling getting done? Can your loved one safely get everywhere she needs to in her house?

For Barb Kuklock, the sign that her mother Elaine needed help came when the family saw that she had stopped preparing meals for herself. “We noticed she wasn’t eating very well,” says Barb. That got Barb and her four siblings talking about what could be done about the problem. They arrived at Meals on Wheels as a potential solution for getting Elaine, who lives in Plymouth, nutritious meals each day.

Changes in diet are just one of the many signs your aging loved one could need some assistance. You can take the quiz at www.mnlivewellathome.org to learn about some of the other signals that your loved one might need help.

Get everyone on the same page

If you think that your loved one could benefit from Meals on Wheels or another service that helps older adults or people with disabilities stay in their homes, begin the discussion with your family members. Having the conversation with your loved one will be easier if you are all in agreement about possible care options.

Barb says it was important for all five siblings to chat about the best way to approach their mother about receiving meals. Elaine’s husband died at a young age, so she was well-adapted to living independently. “I don’t think anyone is really excited about needing help,” says Barb. The kids knew they might need to get a little creative in the way they presented the option of receiving meals to their mother.

Use a gentle approach

Nobody, regardless of age, likes to be told what to do. To increase your chances of success, your approach should be two-sided and conversational, rather than an intervention. Here are a few ideas for starting the conversation from eldercarelink.com. A good general theme to follow is identifying your loved one’s idea of aging well, and discussing options for reaching that goal together.

Barb and her siblings decided to band together to give Elaine Meals on Wheels as a Christmas gift. Since they would be buying her a Christmas gift anyway, this gave Elaine peace of mind in that her children weren’t spending extra money to provide her with meals. Note: While we ask for contributions toward meals from those who are able, the price of meals is based on need.

“One key for us is we started by telling her we’re just going to try it and she didn’t have to keep getting meals if she didn’t like it,” says Barb. Sure enough, Elaine tried the meals, and she’s been receiving them for almost 8 years now. “She would never give it up,” Barb says.

Caregiving experts agree that it’s often not just one talk that results in care solutions. It’s an ongoing conversation and a joint decision-making process yields the best results. Plans that help your loved one continue living independently are best made together, and it often just takes a nonthreatening conversation to move forward.

If you plan on talking to your loved one about Meals on Wheels or any other service over the holidays, it helps to have information you can share. Find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about receiving meals on our website, print out a brochure to share, or contact us to request a brochure or ask any question you might have.

Read more about Elaine and what she loves about Meals on Wheels.