Friday, November 21, 2008

A Guide to Planning

Just looking at caregiving websites will get a person thinking, “What if this happens to my mom? My husband? My friend? Me?” Many people may find it too overwhelming and stick it in their “One-of-These-Days” file. I know the feeling.

I found a particular gem on the AARP Foundation website ( entitled Prepare to Care: A Planning Guide for Families, a free 30-page booklet that can be downloaded from the website. It contains cogent information and well-designed forms to implement a five-step process including preparing to talk, forming a team, assessing needs, making a plan, and taking action. The booklet is written for intergenerational family use, but it can easily be adapted to work with non-traditional caring communities.

The introduction very sensitively states:
“Lack of planning doesn’t mean there is a lack of commitment. On the contrary, often families avoid discussions about the future simply because they don’t want to think about changes in the lives of the people they love the most…. Like writing a will or buying a life insurance policy, contemplating the “what ifs,” especially a serious illness or a loss of independence, can be downright depressing.
“So why not just throw this brochure on the ‘to-do’ pile for another day?”, it goes on to ask.

“Because failing to plan for future responsibilities can make a bad situation worse. And the loved ones you tried to protect by tip-toeing around the ‘uncomfortable’ issues will be the ones who end up suffering the most.”

I especially appreciated the first section of the booklet, Prepare to Talk. The authors ask some serious questions of the adult child who is planning to meet with aging parents.

“Who is the best person to start the conversation with your loved one(s)?

What is the most difficult thing for you about having this conversation with a person you care about?

How does your family usually respond when uncomfortable subjects are discussed?”

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