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As humans, we have a unique ability to both accept our mortality and deny it. For those who care for the elderly, this presents a challenge. How do you ensure that your loved one’s wishes regarding hospice care and other important matters are carried out, when it’s so difficult to begin the conversation?
The last thing you want is for a sudden illness to rob your elderly relative of the opportunity to make his or her own decisions, and the only way to avoid that is to begin discussing options early, preferably while your loved one is still healthy and active. A good way to approach the subject is by examining the difficulties other family members or friends are having. For example, if an older sibling of your relative failed to designate a durable power of attorney before becoming incapacitated, you might talk about the challenges faced by his or her caregivers, and how planning ahead would have been easier for everyone involved.
Keep in mind, though, that decisions about end of life and hospice care can’t be made during a one-time conversation. The discussion will most likely be ongoing, and will cover many more topics than we’ve outlined here. A professional geriatric care manager can help facilitate conversations like this and will know what you need to talk about and how to prepare for the future. The most important thing is to begin talking about the issues now, before there is an emergency. As hard as it is today, imagine how much more difficult it will be after your loved one becomes ill.