Most people will help take care of an older family member at some point in their life.
About 50 percent of employed adults expect to be providing care for an older adult in the next five years, and about 20 percent of employed adults are providing care for a family member, according to statistics compiled by the American Association of Retired Persons. In reality, the percentage of adults providing care for older adults is likely much higher as many employees quit their jobs to become full-time caregivers. Discussing aging needs and issues with older adult family members and friends is a great way to begin preparing for the future. The Texas Talks campaign was created to help you feel more comfortable initiating these conversations about aging and making plans for any situation that might arise. This campaign is also designed to help provide you with information on caregiving, collecting and storing personal information, physical health and social engagement.
Tips for Having the Conversation
Growing older can provide us with more time to go fishing, learn a new hobby, or relax with family and friends. As we age we might lose the ability to do things we used to be able to do, such as driving, grocery shopping, or managing our own finances. How we prepare for aging impacts not only ourselves, but it can also impact our family and friends in expected and unexpected ways. Unfortunately, many people find it difficult to talk about aging issues and express their preferences and expectations. Talking about aging can make people feel vulnerable, uncomfortable and perhaps even defensive. The HHS's Texas Talks campaign provides you and your loved ones with tips and methods to lead off on an important topic and begin having conversations around aging in a less intimidating way.
As you start to discuss aging issues and topics with family and friends, keep these tips in mind:
Empathize and Relate
Before initiating a conversation, take a moment to envision your own aging. How might you feel if you lost the ability to do things you can do now such as getting dressed, driving, grocery shopping or paying bills? How might you feel if you were reliant on someone else to help you do those things? Is there a chance you might feel resentful or frustrated? Would you want to discuss sensitive and personal topics with someone? Taking the time to reflect on how you want to be treated will provide you with the empathy and insights that can help guide you through these conversations.
Having conversations about aging can help you learn what your older loved ones want and value and how you can support them as they age. For example, if they need to move to a supported-living environment, how do they want to handle choosing the setting right for them? What role(s) do they want you to handle? Trust and an open dialog creates the environment where these valuable conversations happen. To create that environment, it is important to let them talk while you listen. Allow them to direct the conversation while you listen and ask clarifying questions. By listening you create a safe place for them to share their viewpoints, even if they are different from yours.
Aging is a complex subject and not one that can be had over a single conversation. Set the expectation this will be an ongoing series of conversations, and conversation outcomes might change depending on future situations. The Texas Talks campaign invites you to revisit your conversation about aging on a regular basis, and encourages you to begin new conversations yearly in November and December. To receive future notifications from Texas Talks directly, email TexasTalks@hhsc.state.tx.us and request to be added to the mailing list.
Discuss potential aging needs and issues before there is a concern. If you host conversation about aging proactively, it will likely become less intimidating and feel less threatening to everyone involved.
Create Action Steps
Make sure everyone's time and effort result in real outcomes. Having these conversations might make everyone feel better, but it's also important to follow up with questions and concerns. End your conversations by identifying needs and discussing action steps to guide future conversations.
Texas Talks is a yearly campaign that takes place during November and December. It highlights different aging-related topics and provides facts and resources necessary to have conversations with loved ones about them. If you want to receive notifications when Texas Talks updates its web materials in 2019, email TexasTalks@hhsc.state.tx.us. The 2019 Texas Talks resources will highlight Alzheimer's disease and dementia, home health care, assisted living and falls prevention.