Last month, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer aired a five-part series entitled Families on the Brink: Caring for Aging Parents. In the attached episode, "What to do About Mom and Dad", ABC News correspondent, Deborah Roberts, discusses how sharing responsibility for geriatric care can lead to family infighting.
Is this news to those of us who work with families in crisis every day? Of course not...but what was newsworthy and reason to re-post this story is the advice offered to families and how this advice is exactly what we as senior living sales professionals and "Experts" need to proactively present solutions to our prospects. This becomes especially important when we know there are multiple siblings or influencers involved in the "what to do with mom and dad" decision.
All too often, what began as a son or daughter in your office discussing the move-in process quickly becomes a juggling act of multiple siblings with differing opinions on "what to do". Next, a range of emotions, wild disagreements and then a family feud which, may ultimately shut down the sales process.
So what do we need to do as sales professionals to help our influencers avoid these disasters and keep the sales process moving forward? First, we need to ask some important questions:
- Who, besides yourself, will be helping with this decision or...
- Are there other siblings who will be helping with this decision?
- Do they live locally? Will they be coming in to town to be part of this process?
- What conversations have all of you had with regards to care and support for your Mother?
- Are you all in agreement that "senior living" is a good option for your Mother?
- Tell me a little more about why your brother does not feel senior living is a good choice for your mother.
- What do you believe to be the biggest obstacle for your brother in considering senior living? Or why do you feel your brother feels so strongly about Home Care?
- How can I (we) best help you with ....?
Once you have determined the critical information and where the objections may lie, it will be easy for you to know how to best advise and guide the influencer in the decision-making process.
Outlined below is some of the advice offered to families from the ABC News story.
- If you are the main caregiver - it's vital to Ask for Help - siblings need to reach out to each other and share their need for help and support. Don't assume that your siblings fully understand how much you are doing daily or what you are up against when providing care for your parent.
- All siblings can offer support to the main caregiver and even far-away siblings can offer support in many different ways:
- Phone support for strategy and advice
- Daily phone check-ins with Mom or Dad
- Research - i.e. ways to save money on prescription drugs
- Care coordination - setting up appointments
- Financial assistance or management
- Everyone responds differently to stress over Mom and Dad. For some, they simply disconnect because the pain is too difficult or for fear of making the wrong decision.
- Determine everyone's "specialty" and assign tasks and responsibilities according to comfort, skill and geographic location.
- Give permission to speak freely however set parameters on delivery.
- Never hang up the phone without saying, "I love you" no matter how bad it gets.
So take this information, make yourself the "expert" and proactively use these tips to prepare and advise your family influencers. Even if all siblings are in agreement with the direction for Mom's care, you can still expertly prepare them with tools on how to handle the emotional stress that can create strife in the most cohesive family teams.
Proactively preparing influencers and arming them with tools to help avoid or alleviate disastrous family conflicts, facilitates that necessary bond and trust family members need to feel confident about choosing you to care for their aging parent.