How to Have Tough Conversations with Aging Loved Ones
October 20 2020
10 Tips to Make these Difficult but Important Conversations a Little Easier to Have
Many seniors can resist extra attention or get frustrated when you try to have a conversation with them about their future and well-being. These difficult conversations with your aging parent or loved one can also be frustrating for you because they come from a place of love and concern.
What makes these conversations about caregiving and financial management so tough is that many seniors feel that the additional care seems like a loss of independence. Seniors may rebuff suggestions for many reasons because they don’t want to give up their ability to make important decisions about their life.
Despite the difficulty of these conversations about your aging loved one’s future, it is extremely important to have these discussions with them. Here are our ten tips to help make these hard conversations a little bit easier.
Don’t wait until your aging loved one experiences an urgent medical issue to broach the topic of additional care or help. During this time, your loved one will be under duress, anxious and reluctant to discuss their future. Instead, be proactive and bring up the topic when your loved one is relaxed. Talk about what you would do if there was an emergency as well as any future care needs as they age.
Do Your Homework
Do some research ahead of your conversations. Find out what options are available for your aging loved one. Being prepared with well-researched suggestions can take your conversation from hypothetical to concrete planning. Be sure to think about your loved one’s specific needs and their lifestyle to help them find the option that is best for them and helps them maintain a sense of independence.
Choose the Right Conditions
Timing and location can be important to help make these difficult conversations easier. You want your loved one to be relaxed and receptive to what you are saying so choose to start these conversations in a private and comfortable environment. Consider writing up your goals or even a strategy to help make the conversation more smooth and beneficial.
When you start these difficult conversations, exercise patience. Keep an open mind and don’t expect definite outcomes for your first discussion. Start small by suggesting your willingness to help. Getting your aging loved one to accept this help can be tough so be prepared for them to reject your offers. Be persistent without being overbearing. However, if your loved one is facing an immediate health or financial risk, timeliness and persistence is key in finding a solution.
Involve Your Siblings
If you have siblings, be sure to discuss your observations with them. Discuss what is in your aging loved one’s best interest and come to a conclusion together to avoid future disputes about care options. Keep unpleasant surprises and emotionally charged confrontations from happening by keeping all siblings in the loop about the health of your loved one.
Empathy is Key
Aging and losing our independence is wrought with emotion, particularly sadness. Be sure to use language that conveys empathy when discussing care options. Go further by hearing and discussing their concerns. While these conversations can be helpful to you, to seniors it signals the end of life stages.
Conversations are a Two-Way Street
Having a discussion is a two-way street. Listening is just as important as conveying your own thoughts. Really listen to what your aging loved one is saying. Try to discern if they are masking any fear or anger. Ask yourself if they have any regrets or hope to change things. Understand if they have any goals that they still wish to achieve. Once these topics have been discussed and are out of the way, it will be easier to move on to their current and future care needs.
Don’t Pressure Them
Avoid pressuring your aging loved one to have these difficult conversations when they are not willing. Rather, your goal should be to create an environment that facilitates understanding and makes them feel comfortable to open up about their situation. Presenting your points gently, rather than applying pressure or forcing your opinion on them, will result in a better outcome. Remember, start by suggesting small changes to give your loved one time to change their views on additional help.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to professionals for guidance. They can help determine the best course of action for your loved one’s situation. Find experienced legal counsel to help draft important documents, such as a power of attorney in case of incapacitation.
Your discussions with your parents or loved one will change as their needs change. Make sure to take clear notes during your conversations by recording your discussions and plans. Don’t forget to record your loved one’s thoughts for follow up.
Your aging loved one’s safety and health are important and so is getting them the care they need. Remember that it is important that you recognize any fears or objections they may have and that these are valid and normal. Be gentle but persistent, and together you can make the right decisions with them.