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For many, the holidays are about spending time with family. For seniors with adult children, the holidays may be a perfect opportunity to discuss care options as they age. While it may be a difficult conversation to have, it is a necessary one, according to Jenny Munro, the acting response team manager and gerontologist at home care firm Home Instead. Munro, who is serving as a caregiver for her 98-year-old father, is familiar with these important discussions.

“Sharing personal stories to individuals looking for care and providing that empathy has been a big advantage to what I do on a daily basis,” Munro told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse. “I have those conversations with individuals and know how tired and overwhelmed they are. When they call us, usually it’s in a crisis mode. They’ve never done this before, and we are the first, literally, people that they are reaching [out to] for help and questions and answers. Knowing that and being in their shoes, I can really relate to their situation.”

Munro recommends following the 40-70 rule when considering these talks: The conversations should be initiated when the adult child is about 40 years old and the parent is about 70 years old. Waiting any longer might create further complications when planning for a loved one’s care toward the end of their life. 

“Life’s unpredictable. We think one day ‘I’m healthy and I’m going to work.’ I could be 70 years old and then I go into the doctor’s office and get a diagnosis of something terminal,” Munro said. “[It’s important] to have those conversations when everybody is healthy, when we can have those open honest conversations, because you just never know what tomorrow’s going to bring.”

Involve everyone in conversation

Also remember that these discussions are conversations, not lectures, Munro offered. Communication is a two-way street. Munro suggests giving parents time to prepare for these discussions as well as granting them the chance to express their desires for the plan. It is imperative that parents understand you care for them and they are an active participant in the process. 

“Let them know you want that conversation so that they can get prepared, and you as a child get prepared with some questions too,” Munro said. “I think their communication is important too, with [parents] knowing what they want and being able to express that in a loving way to children and work together as a team. Be compassionate and understanding to their feelings. Be a good listener and then come prepared. Come with your homework done and give them the options.” 

Home Sweet Home is a feature appearing Mondays in McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse. The story focuses on a heartwarming, entertaining or interesting happening affecting the world of home care. If you have a topic that might be worthy of the spotlight in Home Sweet Home, please email Special Projects Coordinator Foster Stubbs at [email protected].