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How to speak to those with memory loss so they will understand

A mother with Alzheimer's disease understood a written prescription to move into a memory loss facility after her career as a nurse. A widower in his 80s best understood the financial considerations of a decision after spending decades as a CPA.

Language is specific to many professions. For example, working with information technology, or IT, can easily lead to miscommunication. Almost anyone who has had a tech issue has probably experienced this when asked to find operating system information or to open the black coding box. Harvard's extension service even provides guidance for talking the language of computer science. In this post, we discuss why this matters when considering long-term car planning.

Planning for long-term care

With memory loss comes a continuum. In the early stages, it might be enough for a sibling who lives nearby to check in on Mom or Dad a couple times a week. The slips (bruises after falling while shoveling snow) and slides (a stroke and loss of function) that occur can be gradual or sudden.

In a recent post, we talked about the details of long-term care planning. How do you talk about and plan for later stages? It is easy to ignore that the language you use is important.

Framing issues in an understandable manner

For the son who had to move his mother to a memory loss facility across the state, a prescription from a family doctor eased the transition. While driving in the car several hours, he could tell her to read her prescription when she repeatedly asked where they were going. It was comforting for her to know she had a prescription from her doctor.

The father who thought in terms of dollars understood a decision best when it was described in terms of doing this or that to prevent a trip to the emergency room that would cost thousands of dollars.

How can an attorney help?

Determining the best communication style for tough conversations with elders is not easy. Many people get it wrong and it leads to disputes. In addition, different communication styles or grief coping methods can cause fights between siblings about the right course of action for Mom or Dad.

For these reasons, it is often helpful to bring in an elder law attorney to facilitate tough conversations and plan for the future as abilities deteriorate.

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