Talking with Your Elderly Relatives About Hospice Care

Talking with Your Elderly Relatives About Hospice Care

As people age, life grows harder to manage. After a lifetime of independence, it can be tough for parents and other older relatives to admit they need extra help. Several signs they’re ready for hospice care may have arisen, but you might not be sure about the right way to approach that difficult conversation. Here’s how to handle the tough task of talking with your elderly relatives about hospice care.

Do Your Research and Be Prepared

Read up on hospice care. Find out your options with Medicare and Medicaid and other healthcare options. Look into local services and ask your spiritual advisor or human resources department for suggestions on reputable providers of hospice care. Collect the information into a three-ring binder and provide space for notes you can refer to during the talk.

Have the Conversation Sooner, Not Later

Certainly, major events like a terminal illness diagnosis, several ER visits, or, obviously, a doctor’s recommendation that you investigate hospice care can spark that important conversation, but why not have it sooner? Discussing hospice care and other end-of-life decisions is awkward and potentially fraught with emotion, but it’s easier to have this talk long before hospice care is needed. Talk to your relatives about their future choices while they’re still in their prime. It might not feel like an easy conversation, but it’ll be a less heavy one while they still have their health.

Set Up a Low-Pressure Time and Place

Home is always the best place for this kind of talk. Don’t ambush them. Let them know what you want to talk about in advance. Set up a safe space for your relative at the kitchen table, a comfortable chair in a favorite room, or a lovely outdoor area. Family gatherings are a proper time too, since they’ll be surrounded by those who love and care about them. They may not want to have the conversation, but it’s a conversation that must be had. Make it as calm and pleasant as possible.

Remove the Fear

Hospice care can sound scary. Being left to the care of strangers, staying in one place, and, of course, the knowledge that they’re nearing the end. Talk about the difficulties they’ve experienced: frequent hospitalization, ongoing pain, trouble breathing, eating, and getting around, and the like. Stress the fact they’ll be at home, rather than a strange place, and they’ll be looked after not just by you but also trained, caring professionals.

Let Them Know You’re Listening

While it’s good to talk, it’s more important to listen. Let your relative know that you want to hear about their concerns, needs, and fears. Have this conversation before moving on to the next step, discussing options with a representative from a hospice care provider. Going in with shared knowledge and a united front can make that conversation even easier.

Talking with your elderly relatives about hospice care is never a pleasant or unchallenging conversation, but with the right attitude, approach, and preparation, it can be a simpler and more effective one.

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