Talking about a Health Care Proxy with an Aging Parent

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A health care proxy, sometimes referred to as a medical proxy, is the person designated to make critical health care decisions on behalf of an aging loved one should he or she not be able to. This is a particularly sensitive topic for family members to discuss with aging loved ones, especially in regards to adult children speaking with aging parents. However, ensuring that your aging parent or loved one has a health care proxy is vital in respecting their wishes. As a leading provider of Palliative care in Vancouver, we wanted to share a few tips for how to broach the sensitive subject, and how to address the topic without causing tension or insult.

Gently Broach the Subject

Due to the sensitivity of this subject, it is important that this conversation take place in a neutral and calm setting.  Rather than start the conversation by telling your loved one what they need to do, try a few questions that can help get the conversation started. For example, questions like “have you ever thought about what you would want if something were to happen to you?” or “have you thought about who should make decisions if you were not able to?” leave the discussion open, without giving the impression that a decision needs to be made immediately. You can also express your own personal concerns about future care to help open lines of communication.

Have Learning Materials Handy

While it is important to do your research about a health care proxy beforehand, it is important to show your loved one that you are embarking on this journey together. Try to have pamphlets, brochures and other learning materials available that you can browse through together. This can help you coming off as a teacher on the subject and can make your loved one feel more comfortable. If you think an aging loved one would benefit from talking with a professional, consider meeting with a legal professional. At the very least, they will be able to ask questions and take away valuable information about the importance of a health care proxy.

Avoid Pressuring

In some cases, the senior may not be ready to discuss end-of-life care and how to designate a health care proxy. If they remain hesitant, agreeing to discuss the topic when they are ready may be the best approach. Pressuring an aging parent or loved one might only be detrimental to the cause, and leave them with negative feelings about the topic. Keep the topic in mind for a later date and continue to bring it up occasionally if there continues to be resistance.

If you are thinking about ensuring a health care proxy for your aging parent or loved one, you may also be concerned about their safety and overall health. If this is the case, contact Home Care Assistance Vancouver at 778-279-3634 and learn how our highly qualified and compassionate caregivers are helping prolong quality of life, independence and happiness for seniors and older adults.


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