Tough Love: 12 Tips for Having Difficult Conversations With Aging Parents
As of July 2020, there are almost 7 million seniors aged 65 or older in Canada. Do you have parents in this age range? If so, you understand mom and dad need more attention in their golden years. Unfortunately, this means you may have to make tough decisions right now.
Are you dealing with elderly parents? What will you do if your parents get sick? What happens when they need home assistance or need to move into a senior’s home?
Making these decisions is difficult, but these are matters you need to discuss with your parents. Having difficult conversations with ageing parents isn’t easy, but it’s necessary.
Are you not sure where to start? Here are 12 tips to know.
1. Stay Patient
Your mom or dad will prefer living in their home. They don’t think they need assistance. They don’t identify the symptoms of dementia or any other problems they’re facing. Your parent may even want to postpone difficult conversations, such as caregiving and finances.
This is completely normal, even though it’s frustrating for you. This is why it’s best to stay patient.
Do you have difficulty staying patient? Break down discussions into different parts.
Your first discussion can be easy. For example, instead of mentioning to mom or dad that they’re showing the first signs of an age-related ailment, remind them that it’s time for a doctor’s appointment.
Suggest you make the appointment for them. When you do, inform their doctor of the symptoms you’re noticing.
What if their finances or health is at risk? You’ll have to bring up the issue quickly, but focus the discussion on creating a solution rather than identifying the problem. This makes the discussion positive.
2. Start as Early as Possible
Don’t wait until the last minute to discuss caregiving options or other important matters. You won’t be able to make the best decision in a short amount of time. In addition, any last-minute changes will put your parents under serious stress.
Bring up difficult topics casually over a period of time. Make sure it’s at a time when your parents are relaxed. They will have an open mind and will discuss the best options.
During this time, you can stay prepared. Instead of waiting for something bad to happen, you can purchase a product such as an emergency assistance button so your parents can feel safe while staying independent.
3. Do Some Research
Another reason to start these discussions early is so you can conduct your own research. Look up different care options, such as a nursing home and caregivers. You should also know in advance which resources are available in your local area.
You should also research the repercussions these decisions may have on your parents’ lives and if there are any alternatives available to ensure they have their autonomy. You can also look for products that can help your parents stay independent.
In case the worst happens, you have a plan and know who to contact to assist your parents.
4. Always Have Empathy
Your parents are going through a lot. Depending on their situation, they may be nervous and have anxiety. This is especially true if your parents are at the end of life stage. Not only that, but the possibility of losing independence will make anyone aggravated.
That’s why you should always practice empathy. Understand the hardships your parents are going through.
Even though there needs to be a solution, you can use soft language to make your parents feel more comfortable. This is especially important when discussing their health and even death.
5. Involve Siblings and Other Family Members
You shouldn’t be the only one discussing these difficult matters with your parents. If you have other siblings, make them a part of the conversation. Before reaching out to your parents, brainstorm some ideas on their future care.
Always take their best interest into consideration when brainstorming these ideas. Involve your parents when you made a decision — always keep them in the loop and never make decisions without their consent.
What if you don’t have siblings or they don’t wish to be apart of the conversation? Reach out to other family members. Your parent’s brothers and sisters, your cousins, and even your parent’s close friends are all great candidates.
6. Avoid Pressuring Them
If you pressure your parents to do anything, you will be met with hostility — even if certain actions are necessary. Stay understanding, even during the most difficult conversations.
For example, let’s say the doctor recommends your parents stay in the hospital during the end-of-life stage but they want to be in their home. Make arrangements so your parents can receive proper care while they’re at home.
What if changes need to be made? Address these changes but don’t be forceful. Start with gentle talks and make these changes small.
7. Let Your Parents Talk
And listen. While you may think you know what’s best for them, you’re not in their shoes.
This is especially important during the end-of-life phase, they’re reflecting back on their life and are trying to make things better during the short amount of time they have left. They may want to vent, tell stories about their life, and more.
What if your parents don’t talk and are agreeing to everything? While this is an ideal scenario, you also want to make sure your parents aren’t masking fear or anger. This occurs when your parents feel helpless, so remind them they have a say in their arrangements.
8. Take Notes
These difficult conversations are unfortunately ongoing. That’s why you’ll want to take notes.
Start early, discussing your parent’s preferred lifestyle and how they’re caring for themselves in that current moment. Take notes on your discussions, what your parents want, and any solutions to the problems you came up with.
From here, discuss their future wants and needs. This can include plans for nursing homes, caregivers, or future products such as an emergency assistance button. Refer to these notes to help you make these major decisions.
9. Share Similar Situations
Is your parent going through a tough situation? Let’s say a friend’s parent went through the same thing. Share their story with your parent. Explain ways they prepared for the event, or if they didn’t prepare.
You can also mention the aftermath of the other person who went through the same situation in the past. If your parent is comfortable, contact this friend’s parent and see if the two can talk.
What if you don’t know someone who went through a similar situation? Research stories from books, the media, and even a TV show or movie.
This little story is a reminder that your parent isn’t the only one enduring tough situations. They will also get a better idea of what to expect, easing your parent’s anxiety.
10. Ask Questions
Ask the questions and let your parents answer. Open-ended questions will give the best responses. For example, ask “how do you feel about living in a nursing home?” You’ll hear your parent’s insight without any anxiety or expectation that they will be living somewhere else.
If your parent isn’t ready to talk about these important topics, you can ask them other questions. Focus on questions that will open up discussions potentially leading up to important topics.
A great example is, “what has been your most meaningful experience?” They will discuss something they love. Even if this doesn’t lead to an important conversation, your parent will feel happy and relaxed, taking their mind off any anxieties.
11. Be Slow
Most people would rather avoid difficult topics and your parents are no exception. That’s why you should always be gentle and easy with these topics — never rush into them.
Mention that you would like to talk about a specific topic at some point. Have your parent think of what to say and to contact you when you’re ready. Even if it takes a few months, it’s best for your parent to feel comfortable discussing difficult topics than forced at the last minute.
12. Seek Professional Help When Necessary
Has it come to a point where you tried all of this advice and your elderly parent refuses help? Caring for elderly parents isn’t easy. Don’t be afraid to call a professional. You and your parents can trust third-party insight, especially when it comes to a respected professional in their industry.
For example, a psychologist can help you talk to your parents and settle any disagreements.
A psychologist isn’t the only professional you may need. Doctors will help you make the best decisions for their health and to enhance their quality of life as they age. You may need legal counseling to settle any legal matters, such as their will.
Having Difficult Conversations Is Never Easy
No one enjoys having difficult conversations, but there will come a point when helping elderly parents is necessary. Remember these tips to make the process easier.
Are you taking care of elderly parents? The best thing to do is to stay prepared. And we can help with that.
Start by giving your parents an emergency assistance button. All they have to do is press the button if they need an ambulance or any other type of help. This way, they can stay independent and safe.
Order Red Dot Alerts to keep your loved one protected.