Having Difficult Conversations with Aging Loved Ones

December 14, 2017

Home nurse talking to senior couple 78768320

With holiday events bringing families together, they present an opportunity to talk face-to-face with your aging loved ones. The goal of making lasting memories while simultaneously attempting to have challenging conversations within a limited amount of time can make things a bit stressful. These conversations can feel forced, there are ways to connect in meaningful ways, so you are able to address important matters while also making time to create lasting memories. Here are a few tips for having difficult conversations with aging loved ones:

  1. State the desire to have a conversation. It is easier to dodge something that is brought up on the spot versus something that has been discussed and planned. Prior to the holiday, mention that you would like to have a talk. You don’t have to be extremely specific, but do plan a time for a talk so that expectation is there.
  2. Schedule a specific window of time. Carve out a specific date and time for the conversation and make a clear plan, so that there is time allotted to the talk for all parties involved.
  3. Take it nice and slow. Rushing into a conversation about serious matters can make everyone feel pressured and anxious, so take it slow. At this point, you have likely given this talk a lot of thought, but your loved one may not yet have considered topics discussed and may need time to process the issues. Without a calm approach thanks to some mindful preparation, your loved one could feel caught off guard and defensive and this could prove to be an obstacle in getting your message through to them and could also result in their denial of what you are proposing. Check your voice and tone during the conversation to make sure you are going at a nice slow pace and speaking in a relaxed manner. Try to not force or rush any tough decisions.
  4. Convey the message of working together by being authentic in your tone and choice of words. Your job is to build an alliance with your loved one and in order to do that, you should come from a place of compassion, aligning yourself with your parents against whatever it is that needs to tackled and resolved. Be appreciative of the situation and how hard it could be for them to accept. Be honest and create that alignment with your loved one.
  5. Make a practical plan. If you can leave the discussion with a simple plan that includes next steps… often times that in itself will create a sense of relief for all involved.  Identifying the issues. When thinking about the issues to address consider the following key areas of concern: physical well-being, emotional well-being, social well-being including activities that foster joy, financial and material well-being. Once your loved one’s needs are identified, start looking ahead to desired outcomes. Your final step is to get specific about who will do what and when.
  6. Try to not have to do this alone. Potentially reach out to other family members, friends and/or a trusted professional, such as a life care manager, a physician, an attorney, a financial planner, or an accountant.

Even with best intentions and plans, some times things do not work out the way we have expected or hoped. Do not give up, this happens often. If you need to, take a step back from the conversation and try to re-address at a later date.