Where Do You Start?

The beginning of a new year seems an appropriate time to kick things off, right?

Of course, as soon as I jotted down the blog title, I heard Maria Von Trapp singing in my ear, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…” Joyful, Sound of Music references aside, my intention here is to share a ‘starting place’ suggestion for your family caregiving journey.

Here’s what I wish someone had told me. “Get going dear, have the conversation.” You know, the discussion about end of life wishes. I think we all assume we know, or that it’s better to let things unfold as they may. But crisis-driven decisions aren’t always the best and are usually the ones you regret.

Granted, I know it’s not easy to casually ask your parents, say, over jelly donuts around the kitchen table, about end of life plans and finances. We never had a formal conversation with my parents, but as is so common, my siblings and I knew in a broad sense that their expectation was to stay at home until the very end. That was the extent of that.

There was never any question when it came to finances. Mom would remind us on occasion, very matter of fact, for everyone to hear, “Your Father has never been good with money” to which he would half smile and shrug. Sort of like oops. For the most part, they both seemed resigned to the fact and even better, content.

There are wonderful tools and resources available now, to help families begin the discussion. For starters, there is The Conversation Project. The Conversation Project is a forum and resources dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care. From their research, they found that 90% of people say that talking with their loved ones about end-of-life care is important, but 27% have actually done so.

It would seem we’re in good company and that when it comes right down to it, we’re all beating around the bush! Chances are your family members have the same, back of mind worries and will appreciate your stepping up to plan and start the dialog.

Along with your New Year’s resolutions, even those that may stall along the way, consider your approach to have THE conversation with your parent/s. It may take more than just one attempt, (or two or more) and chances are it won’t go as planned and will fall short of perfect. But, Arthur Ashe said it best- “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

Sarabeth Persiani

Sarahbeth Persiani is the author of Run, Walk, Crawl- A Caregiver Caught Between Generations. For five years, Sarahbeth was the primary caregiver for her Father, who had dementia, while working full-time and taking care of her own family. As the founder of We Are Sharing the Sun, her focus these days is to help companies create a supportive culture for family caregivers and provide education, support and encouragement for working professionals who are themselves in the sandwich squeeze.