If you are caring for a loved one with Medicare, it is important that you talk to them about the what-ifs before a crisis happens. What if they become very sick? What if they can no longer live at home? What if they can no longer communicate their wishes? What would happen then?

These are tough topics to bring up, but the discussions are critical to have so that you can

  • find out whether financial safeguards are in place to ensure that your loved one always receives quality health care; 
  • make sure that your loved one has the legal documents necessary to guarantee that they always get the medical treatment they would prefer and that their feelings about life-sustaining treatments are honored; 
  • find out where they keep important personal, medical, and financial documents; information that could play a role in determining what kind of care they get.

Here are some tips to help you talk to your loved one about difficult topics:

  • Think about what you want to say ahead of time. Also think about how your loved one might react to your bringing up different subjects. 
  • Pick a good time to talk. Try to pick a time when neither of you is in a hurry. 
  • Ask questions and listen. Your biggest concern may be how to pay for health care in the future; your loved one may be worried about other aspects of growing older. Being empathetic to their concerns may make them more receptive to your suggestions. 
  • Be clear and concise. If there is an elephant in the room, address it. For example, if it is clear you will soon need to explore assisted living options, get to the point. 
  • Respect your loved one’s opinions. They may not always agree with you. If you respect their opinion, they may come around to your side, or be open to exploring alternative solutions. 
  • Do not try to get to everything. You may have many issues you want to discuss. It is possible your loved one may not want to talk now, or will change the subject after a while. View your first conversation as opening the door for future conversations. 
  • Bring someone else in on the conversation. Could a family member or friend act as an interested but unbiased third party?