WASHINGTON (WJLA) — Amy Goyer spent years caring for her aging parents. Her mother had a stroke in her 60s. Her father developed Alzheimer’s. On top of caring for her own parents, she also helped her sister who developed Cushing’s disease. All three eventually passed away.
The cost of caregiving is high. An AARP study shows family caregivers spend more than $7,000 on average each year. It’s usually more when Goyer tried to care for her entire family and it left her bankrupt. Now she helps other families facing caregiving dilemmas as an AARP family caregiving expert.
“I’ve been a caregiver pretty much my entire adult life,” she said.
She spoke with Lindsey Mastis during The Wellness Desk about ways families can have conversations about aging. Watch the full interview here or below:
Some families are good about having conversations while others refuse. Many parents especially don’t want to be told what to do by their adult children.
“And they shouldn’t be told what to do because they are our parents. Come to it with a place of respect and love and concern. If you come in with, you need to do this, or you should change that, nobody is going respect that,” Goyer said.
Before the conversations begin, Goyer encourages people to do their research. Observe your parents, Goyer said. Find out what needs to be addressed. Is there a cognitive decline? Are some things harder to do because of physical limitations? What else do you notice?
Then she recommends researching solutions and suggestions. Come to the table with options and knowledge.
Also, have a reason. Let your parents know why you’re bringing up the topic. It could be something simple like you saw it on the news and it got you thinking that it’s time your family got on the same page.
It’s important to have these conversations before there’s a crisis, Goyer said. But opening the line of communication may also depend on who your parents feel comfortable with.
“It depends on the person. It’s so important that you know who you are talking to, how are they going to respond best? For some people, they are going to want it planned out, they want some time to think about it, they want to be prepared for that conversation. And if you know that about your loved one, set up that time. For others, you gotta kinda sneak it in,” she said.
Sneaking in the conversation means looking for ways to bring it up on walks, car rides, or at dinner.
“Let’s talk about legal issues today,” Goyer suggests. Another question may be, “When you stop driving, where do you want to live?”
She said it’s important to try not to overwhelm them. And make sure you’re listening.
Despite any wishes or plans, the financial reality is also something to consider. Even though Goyer’s parents had long-term care insurance, she said a series of financial missteps left them without savings.
In addition to figuring out the future for aging parents, Goyer said it’s important that caregivers get the care they need. Look for respite programs or even adult day care. Even though it may be hard, Goyer recommends setting limits as to how much a caregiver will contribute financially.
For more information on caregiving resources, go here.