November is National Family Caregivers' Month — Learn How to Discuss Crucial Issues Before a Crisis Strikes

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The number of family caregivers has tripled since 1994 and there are an estimated 65.7 million Americans who have served as unpaid family caregivers. Erickson Resource Group offers tips to help families prepare now to minimize crises.

Information, training and support for seniors, caregivers and the family.

“In my experience, most families do not discuss, prepare or plan for aging as a team. As a result, when a crisis hits, intense family conflict often arises,” Erickson says.

The number of family caregivers has tripled since 1994 — an estimated 65.7 million Americans have served as unpaid family caregivers. A typical caregiver loses $303,880 in salary, Social Security and pension due to taking time off for caregiving. With America’s rapidly growing aging population, this number will continue to climb each year. As healthcare budgets and social services are stretched thin, the burden of care primarily falls on families.

A crisis can strike for elderly people at any time. Whether it’s a fall, an acute infection, a stroke or dementia, panic often sets in. More often than not, families and patients feel lost and unprepared. So why are families not talking about these issues?

Stephanie Erickson, a clinical social worker specializing in seniors and their families, has seen families, time and time again, fall into a pit of despair when an aging person takes a turn for the worse.

“In my experience, most families do not discuss, prepare or plan for aging as a team. As a result, when a crisis hits, intense family conflict often arises,” Erickson says.

Erickson can share professional advice and strategies that help seniors and their families be better prepared when the inevitable occurs.

She has developed 10 key tips to get the conversation started, including:

  • Hold your breath and jump!

Take a chance and start a conversation with your parents or adult children about health, illness and aging. Use a news story, a book, a TV show or movie to jumpstart the discussion. This will give you a pulse on how open everyone is to discussing these issues.

  • Share others’ stories.

If you have a friend or another family member who experienced an acute health crisis recently, share this story with your parent or adult child. Discuss the ways in which this friend’s preparation, or lack of preparation, impacted the family’s coping and overall functioning.

  • Be conscious of word choices.

The words we use to communicate give us insight into how somebody processes information. Which of these words or phrases does your family member use: death, die, deceased, passed on or met their maker? Respect that terminology and use it yourself when discussing these topics with your family member.

  • Be honest.

Making false statements about your family member’s prognosis or situation will not help your family get through a crisis. In fact, lack of clarity or avoiding difficult truths may lead to more confusion and family dysfunction.

  • Take your time.

If your family is not used to discussing difficult topics openly and directly, things cannot change overnight. Bite off small pieces by trying some of these tips, then let things marinate for a while. Follow up every few months until you are satisfied with the depth of conversation.

About Stephanie Erickson

Stephanie Erickson, MSW, PSW, LSCW is a clinical social worker licensed in California and Quebec who specializes in working with seniors and their families. She is currently writing a book which encourages family discussions and offers tips on how to proactively design your aging experience. Erickson has provided training and consultations to financial institutions, community groups and professional organizations, and has been a guest on CJAD and the Alzheimer’s Speaks radio show, AM600 WMT radio show and is scheduled for the nationally syndicated Issues Today radio show.

Erickson is available for interview on timely topics related to caregiving for aging relatives. For more information, visit http://www.ericksonresource.com.

Contact:

Stephanie Erickson
Erickson Resource Group
(514) 795-7377
stephanie(at)ericksonresource(dot)com
http://www.ericksonresource.com

SOURCE Stephanie Erickson

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Stephanie Erickson

Stephanie Erickson
@AgingFamilyERG
since: 04/2010
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