How Do We Talk With Our Folks And Older Loved Ones About…”What If?”

Talking to Our Folks

I am a Registered Nurse and am in my mid (ish) 40’s. My folks are both 80 over next 2 years and are generally fit, well and feisty ha ha!
I have an awesome relationship with them and we are an open, communicative family. We are each and all very independent (that is my excuse for not visiting them enough) and don’t interfere in each others lives – but we would do anything for each other if needed.

I now run a health recruitment company and we specialise in the aged care sector (both in facilities and in the home). I love it! It is an awesome sector where each individual involved can really make a difference for people and the greater NZ community every single day. I am not going to get all “Oprah” on you – but it kind of is a privilege to be involved in the lives of older NZer’s.

So, my question to you (whoever you are) is when is a good time to talk to our folks and older loves ones about how or where they may want to be cared for when they are unable to do that fully themselves. OR do we not talk to them about it?

The reason I ask, is that I have had a large number of friends and seemingly more calls to our company from people my age trying to work out what is available to support their folks because one or either have now become unwell. They are always so stressed and have many different factors affecting their call to me. They might feel sad that their immortal folks might not be so immortal after all; they might have siblings with strong views putting pressure on; there might be $$ concerns; there is always a lack of knowledge about what is best to do; they feel guilty that they are having to make decisions for their folks -who always made the decisions for them!

I talk about what the options are and become all “Nurse-like” with my friends and enquirers to our company. I have a cool and easy document that I share with them that is a pathway to options and then I find most of the conversation and on-going support is on at a much more emotional level, trying to alleviate their guilt, their sadness, their worries and their desire to keep everyone happy (mostly their folks). Obviously a large number of older Kiwis sort this out well in advance – but a lot don’t. So, how do we approach our folks about ‘what if?’

For me personally, I am a pretty bold personality and have no problem opening up tricky conversations with friends, family, colleagues. I hate secrets and drive people nuts because I don’t think things should be left undone or unsaid or awkward. I will dance on the tables for a laugh (even though I am uncoordinated and have no rhythm) and will chat to perfect strangers or throw my wedding ring off the harbour bridge (but not my engagement ring as it has diamonds) to be dramatic when my marriage failed (can I point out this is illegal, as the nice officer explained to me at the time) ……BUT I am not sure how to talk to my folks about “what if?”.

So Mum and Dad if you are reading this, I guess I just opened up the conversation – and if you are someone in the same boat or an older NZer with kids who did this well or have advice for me, then please respond to the blog.

Jane