Difficult Conversations

Resources and information regarding difficult conversations with elders and individuals with in home care.

As children, our parents were the authority figures. They told us what to do, what to eat, what to wear and taught us good from bad. But as they age, a transition takes place where the roles are reversed, the children become the authority and the parents are needing help. And for almost all parties, that role reversal is an extremely difficult transition. Many times, normal conversations about aging and related issues just don’t take place.

Starting and having a conversation about a difficult topic with your aging parents is something that most all families go through. There comes a time when your aging parent needs help around the home, are no longer safe in the kitchen or should no longer be driving. It is important to realize that whatever the difficult topic is, your parent is in the process of losing independence and control. And those are not easy things to let slip away. It is also important for you to realize there are a number of resources out there to help. A really good book is How to Say it to Seniors by David Solie. https://www.davidsolie.com/books-cds/book-information/

Many times, the conversation is a series of conversations. Timing is critical which normally means don’t bring up an issue during family vacations or holiday visits. The goal is to have conversations that become dialogues taking place over time where you both are trying to solve an issue. Not arguments where you are trying to convince them or worse yet, dictate an outcome. The conversation rarely goes well if one day you walk in and say, “You are no longer safe on the road, please give me your keys and drivers license”. You will want to avoid saying words or phrases that can be taken as accusations, instructions, belittling or demeaning. Avoid, “you are ……” “you should…….” or “you’re not doing well at ….” Instead, use phrases like “your house is in great shape, how do you keep it up?” or “it looks like you are doing well, what did the doctor say on your last visit?” It is important to test the water and ask open ended questions. Be positive, honest and open. If your aging parents get defensive, evasive or agitated maybe the conversation needs to wait.

Another important thing to do is to do your homework. Know what things to look for about the topic. For example, if you think your parents need help in the kitchen, notice what is in the fridge. Whether it is empty or stuffed full of outdated food is indication as whether they may need help. Then, if you ask an open-ended question such as, “it must be hard to cook for just one person, how do you do it?” you can start a dialogue. And further, if you know of agencies which help with meal preparation, you can respond in an appropriate and informed way.
There is much information on the internet about having conversations with your loved ones. We’ve found one of the best is https://www.caring.com/caregivers/starting-the-conversation/#what-not-to-say-to-your-aging-loved-one

Financial Matters, Where Mistakes can be Costly

Most likely, your parents have been managing their own financial matters since before you were born. But there comes a time when something happens which makes you concerned about whether they are still making good decisions. With the rise of social media, information about you, your family and your parents is widespread. Couple that with the number and sophistication of senior financial scams taking place and it is easy to see why your aging parents could start to make poor decisions. Be aware and notice potential issues. Unpaid bills, late notices and solicitation calls while you are visiting can be indicators your parent needs help. Use open-ended questions about bills, banks and the economy to begin a conversation. As your parents age, it is important to know their financial well-being. www.havenwoodhomecare.com/financial-matters

Staying Safe in Their Home, When to Know They Need Help

Sometimes your aging parent may have an abrupt change in condition which lets you know that they need help. More often than not however, your loved one has a slow decline and it is difficult to determine just when they may start needing help. Starting a conversation about needing help in the home can be difficult as many times your parents may be in denial of their declining abilities as they age. Understand what your parents are going through, the loss of independence and control which is difficult for everyone. Normally your parents will not want to be a burden and will not ask for help. The goal in starting the conversation is to sidestep the frustrations and confrontations and try to build a partnership to understand the underlying issue or concern. Sometimes, if you express your concerns for their safety instead of how their safety impacts your stress level, the conversation will go better. Use the approach of being aware of changes, creating a dialogue and finally doing your homework so you know options and solutions.

Be aware and notice things around the home. Sometimes it can be as apparent as a burned pan that was left on the stove. Or if the home is not as well kept as it once was such as being dirty or cluttered. Poor personal hygiene or dirty clothing. Being aware of changes in the home can be difficult, especially for children who see their parents regularly.

Be aware and notice changes in their health, especially pay attention to bruises of if they’ve had a fall. Issues like forgetting to take medication, forgetfulness or missing appointments can be an indicator of changes in physical conditions.

If you become aware of a concern, the next step is starting the conversation. Ideally, you will build a partnership and create a dialogue about their safety and living conditions. There are a couple of things that can help the conversation go smoothly. First, take time to have the conversation. Conversations shouldn’t be rushed or squeezed into a break in your day. Start the conversation when you have the time to get all the way through. Second, be patient. It may take more than one conversation to get you both to a place where you are happy. Early conversations are like sowing seeds, sometimes it takes a while for the idea to take root and grow. Third, listen and ask good questions. Many times, a conversation may veer away from the topic at hand, however, those seemingly irrelevant topics may indicate an underlying concern. Let them talk and tell stories as you will never regret knowing more about your parent’s life.
Once you and your parents determine that help may be needed, it is important to know what options are available. From In Home Care which allow your parents to Age in Place to Assisted Living Facilities, there are options to keep them safe.

Below are a number of articles and our blogs which may help and answer some of your questions.

Difficult Conversations Blog

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How to Start the Conversation… and Keep it Going!

Often times, people are resistant to conversing with elderly adults out of fear of being tongue tied. Most dread the thought of sitting there and having nothing to say. Seniors are vibrant and dynamic individuals. And, if anything they have even more to talk about!...

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