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How to Communicate as a Caregiver
Image shows a young woman helping an older gentleman dress himself by buttoning his sweater.

Every caregiving plan must be based on the wishes and consent of the people involved. Family members should never plan or intervene in the lives of their loved ones without their knowledge or consent. When you discuss planning with your older loved one, remember to start small and build slowly. When starting the conversation, remember TEMPO:

  • Timing - Make sure you and your loved one have plenty of time to talk without interruptions or concerns about being someplace else.
  • Experience – Tie the discussion to personal experience. For example: “Mom, I just finished working on my will. I was wondering when you last looked at your will?”
  • Motivation – Know why you want to have this conversation. Of course, you have your loved one’s best interests at heart, but your life and your family matter as well. Your loved one will appreciate you being truthful with them (and yourself) about why you want a plan.
  • Place – Hold your conversation in an environment where your loved one is comfortable, but that also has little noise and few distractions and interruptions.
  • Outcome – Focus on the conversation, not quick answers to your questions. In talking about caregiving, you want to lay the ground work for mutual respect and a willingness to share information and discuss feelings, wishes and needs.

If you find that your loved one is reluctant to talk about their care needs or situation, know that this is normal. Many people don’t like to think about needing help from others. Be persistent, but respectful. Try using examples from your life or people you both know. Find something that is important to them, such as choosing the care they prefer or activities they wouldn’t want to give up, and build from there.

It may also be helpful to involve someone else in the conversation that your loved one respects, such as a trusted friend or family member, clergy member or a professional, such as a doctor, attorney or financial advisor.