Texas Talks

Most people will help take care of an older family member or friend at some point in their lives. According to a 2020 AARP research report, approximately 48 million Americans will provide unpaid care and will spend about 4.5 years providing care for an adult loved one. Sixty-one percent of people providing care are also employed in other jobs.

Discussing aging needs and issues with older adult family members and friends is a great way to begin preparing for the future. The Texas Talks campaign was created to help you feel more comfortable initiating these conversations about aging and making plans for any situation that might arise. To learn more about having these conversations, read the Texas Talks Tips (PDF).

Texas Talks takes place each year during November and December and encourages families to use the holiday season as an opportunity to begin or continue conversations about aging. Texas Talks highlights different aging-related topics and provides facts and resources to include in your conversations with loved ones. If you want to receive the 2020 Texas Talks resources, email Texas Talks.

The 2020 Texas Talks campaign provides you with information on the following topics. Worksheets are provided for each topic to help focus your conversations.

Maintaining traditions

While life can change quickly with an unexpected event or challenge, certain things stay constant. The traditions we practice together can be steady lights in our lives, giving warmth and structure to our experiences. Regardless of a family’s composition — a mom and dad, stepparents, grandparents, foster families or a community of close friends — these practices tell our stories and reflect our group identity.

Traditions are more than just holiday celebrations. Traditions, which can start in childhood or later in life, are forms of communication and symbolism. They allow us to relate to our loved ones on a deeper level. Reports show that groups who practice traditions feel closer and enjoy their time together more. The types of traditions have no impact on this outcome, but the number of traditions do.

Small everyday traditions — eating dinner together or bedtime rituals — offer comfort and security through consistency. Annual traditions, like holiday recipes or photos on the first day of school, teach family values and heritage. Traditions associated with life events (weddings, retirements, funerals, etc.) strengthen social bonds and create intergenerational connections.

Talking about maintaining family traditions may be a sensitive topic, especially if your older loved ones currently have major roles in these practices. Let them know that this effort is not about someone taking control of the traditions, it’s about preserving them for future generations. You can begin the process by identifying your family’s everyday and annual traditions.

When talking with an older loved one, ask them to share why a tradition started and why it is important to keep it going. You can discuss the traditions that are meaningful to you along with their history. It may be helpful to discuss documenting them. End by making a plan to involve younger members of your family or community so they can carry traditions into the future.

There are many ways to maintain your traditions through the years. Need some ideas? Try the following activities.

  • Write down recipes to create a cookbook.
  • Share and document traditions during a reunion.
  • Create and maintain genealogical records or a family tree.
  • Sew a quilt with each square illustrating a cherished tradition.
  • Invite family or community members to discuss the history and meaning behind their favorite traditions.

Learn More

  • StoryCorps’ mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.
  • Learn about Community Life and Celebration on the American Folklife Center website. 

Texas Talks Resource

Mental health

An estimated 20 percent of Americans age 65 and older are living with a mental health or substance use issue. Loss of a loved one, chronic pain, social isolation and other age-related factors can further compound mental health issues for older adults.

Mental health reflects our emotions, thoughts and social health. It influences how we feel, what we think about and what we do. It may also change the way we manage stress, handle relationships and make decisions. Indeed, mental health is an essential part of overall health and wellness at every age.

An open and honest discussion about mental health can be the first step to recovery and can provide older loved ones with an opportunity to express how they would like to be supported during challenging times. Mental health may be something your family has never talked about, and it takes courage to start. For some, social stigma and negative attitudes can prevent productive conversations. Some older adults grew up in an environment that valued personal willpower over seeking help. Sharing why mental health is important to overall health and safety can help set up the conversation. Be sure to listen with empathy throughout the conversation.

As the conversation winds down, end on a positive note — recovery is possible. Loved ones want to feel understood and supported. If the conversation brought up any concerns, you may want to research and identify resources that can provide support. Early screening and recognition of mental health conditions can be a vital step in living and aging well.

Texas Health and Human Services contracts with 39 local mental health authorities (LMHAs) and two local behavioral health authorities (LBHAs) to deliver mental health services in communities across the state. To find an LMHA or LBHA in your area, visit the Find Your Local Mental Health or Behavioral Health Authority webpage. If your loved one has insurance, their plan might provide some mental health coverage. Help your loved one call their insurance company for more information.

Learn More

Texas Talks Resource

Advance care planning

Facing a medical crisis or an end-of-life event can be scary. The experience may be even more stressful when a loved one is unable to make decisions about their care and family and friends do not know their wishes. Although difficult, planning ahead can reduce stress while honoring a loved one’s wishes.

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, advance care planning is the process of making decisions about the care one would like to receive in the event of a medical crisis or at the end of life. Family and close friends can talk to loved ones about personal values and preferences to get a better idea of the care they would like to receive and to begin a larger conversation.

Texas Talks Resource

Preventing fraud

Fraud can impact every part of a person’s life. A recent research review found that one out of every 18 older adults without cognitive impairment is a victim of fraud each year. Financial exploitation is a type of elder abuse, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers a serious public health issue. Awareness is an important step toward preventing fraud. Some common scams include:

  • Identity theft occurs when someone uses any element of a person’s personal identifying information without consent. This can include social security numbers and credit card or bank account information. To learn more, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft webpage.
  • Imposter scams occur when someone pretends to be a trusted person to get someone to disclose personal information or send money. To learn more, visit the FTC’s Imposter Scams webpage.
  • Health care fraud involves misrepresenting or concealing information or deceiving a person to receive benefits or profit financially. Some schemes are as simple as asking to see an older adult’s Medicare card and writing down their social security number. To learn more, visit the Attorney General of Texas website.

Start a conversation with your older loved one about fraud. Ask if they have ever received an odd email or phone call that caused them concern. Discuss how they handled the situation. Share an example from your own life so they know they are not alone. It is also important to stress that they can learn to identify scams. Here are some tips from the National Consumer League:

If you or your loved one ever experience fraud, it is important to report it to the Texas Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, which enforces consumer protection and antitrust laws, educates consumers and seeks recovery from Medicaid and Medicare fraudsters. The FTC’s website identitytheft.gov also provides information to help victims report and recover from identity theft.

It’s important to remember that while older adults are more likely to be targets of fraud, everyone is at risk. Talking about fraud can be challenging but having an open dialogue is important, and sharing your own concerns show that this is something you are facing together.

Texas Talks Resource

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Previous Texas Talks Topics

To learn more about health aging, visit the Texercise website.

To learn more about health aging, visit the Texas Talks website.

To learn more about health aging, visit the Know Your Neighbor website.