Any kind of transition in life is challenging, but changes that involve aging parents are especially difficult. Aging parents often find their transitions involve the loss of normal things – driving privileges, financial control of assets and self care. These are never easy conversations to have with your parents.
Aging seniors frequently experience these losses in the quality of their lives as they face the end of their life. As caregivers to aging parents, it’s not enough to see to the medical needs of parents; the mental and emotional needs are just as important to ensure their overall wellbeing.
Talking through these issues is just as important as the decisions that result from them. The following are some guiding principles to follow when it’s time to have a hard conversation with your parent so the best resolution can be made.
How To Talk To Aging Parents With Respect
- Show Empathy
Before you talk about the big issues, it’s important to look at it from your parent’s point of view. Communicating with older adults, especially older adults who are used to being in charge of their own life, requires an empathetic perspective.
When talking to aging adults, it’s vital that you understand how much loss they experience in later years. They may have lost health, mobility, family, and friends. Letting them share these losses provides you with the opportunity to offer alternatives that help them remain in control of part of their life.
- Make Them Part of the Discussion
Encourage discussion with your parents by asking for their ideas and input instead of telling them what they should do. Try to offer options instead of advice. Be respectful of their situation and their opinion about what should be done. Engage them in a well-rounded discussion where they become part of the resolution instead of being dictated to.
- Have the Discussion Early
Many times families find themselves having these types of conversations when it’s too late and the family is in crisis mode. When this happens, there tend to be fewer choices available to them or you have to make rash decisions that might not be the best solution to the problem. Start the conversation with your parents now and let them know you want to make sure the right decisions will be made down the road. Being proactive instead of reactive can help prevent some of the stress on families when a parent’s health starts to deteriorate and a quick solution is needed.
- Make Other Family Members Part of the Discussion
Other family members, such as siblings, should be part of the discussion whenever appropriate. Discuss the situation with these other family members first to create a unified team that will together do what’s best. If family members have different opinions than you about what should be done, work these out before going to your parent. This will help create a team that is working toward the same goal: the best quality of life possible.
- Don’t Pressure Them
Don’t walk into the conversation expecting to have all the answers and make all the decisions in one sitting. Give your parents time to think about the matter at hand and think about what they would like should their quality of life ever come into question.
- Always Make Honor and Respect a Priority
No matter what the situation is, it’s important to always remember that these people were your parents. They were at one time used to making the decisions for you and not the other way around. Approach every conversation, no matter how difficult, with this in mind and honor the role they play in your life and respect the sacrifices they always made for you. Reassure them that you will be there to support them as they proceed through these transitions.
Conversations about your parents’ quality of life aren’t always easy. However, having the conversation will put your mind at ease and your parents’ mind at ease that there is a plan in place in case their quality of life changes.
Talking to your aging parent with a mix of empathy, respect and practicality is a good approach to navigating these unfamiliar waters that will foster an ongoing dialogue about the best decisions for your parents and your family.
Elder Care Alliance exists to help provide the highest quality of life for seniors who decide to live in one of our five communities. If you’d like to find out more about us, please schedule a visit or check out our website.