One of the most difficult things you will ever do is have tough conversations with an aging loved one about their health and independence. These are major life transitions which may include loss of driving privileges, financial control, in-home care or assisted living.
I can tell you from my own personal experience that these conversations are not easy. You will likely have disagreements as well. But, how you have the conversation is just as important as what you say.
These seven tips will help you and your loved one work through the issues and find resolution.
Start Talking Before A Crisis
Do not wait until a crises happens to begin talking with your loved one about important transitions. Fewer choices are available when you wait until your loved one is in the midst of a physical or financial crises.
When bringing up these tough issues, let your loved one know that it is because you are concerned for their well being. You want to work with them to do what is best.
Being proactive before a crises occurs will help prevent conflict and stress. Having a plan of action gives everyone confidence in the decision making process.
Include Family Members
If you have siblings, it is very important to have the tough conversations with them first. Getting the perspective of all family members is crucial. Discussing the issues as well as determining each siblings willingness to participate will create unity in working with your loved one.
Every family is different and there is no single strategy that will work. Many conversations may be needed before you ever talk to your aging loved one.
When you decide to talk with your aging loved one, try to see things from their perspective. Express empathy and understanding that transitional changes mean loss in their world. Being able to discuss loss of health, finances, mobility and control will provide an opportunity to talk about alternatives.
How you communicate your concerns is so important. Respect the life experience of your loved one and express your concerns without telling them what to do or giving your opinion. A better method of conversation is to ask open-ended questions that foster discussion.
Include Your Loved One
As long as your aging loved one is of sound mind, they should be included in the decision making process. Choice is the most effective way to make them feel that they still have control of their lives. Giving your loved one a voice and allowing them to participate will create a desire to follow along with the suggested changes.
When having tough conversations with an aging loved one, you are going to run into disagreements. Even though you may believe that you are right, you must not insist on getting your way at the expense of your relationship. Reassure your loved one that you are on their side and want the best care for them. Again, as long as your loved one is of sound mind and not in danger of crises, agree to disagree. There will be more days for more conversations.
What If It’s Not Going Well
Because these conversations are so tough, you may find that your loved one is resistant to talk or make any decisions. This may be an opportunity to involve a third party such as Caring.com to provide counsel, guidance and expert assistance. Their resource “Starting the Conversation” is a terrific guide for caregivers. You may also want to read my article “4 Ways To Keep Elderly Loved Ones Active“.
Keep in mind that making important transitional life decisions is not going to happen in one conversation. Maintaining an open dialogue and reassuring your loved one of your respect, care and support of their well being will lead you all to make united decisions. Click the link below to get started!