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How to Approach Sensitive Topics with an Elderly Loved One

During your last visit home to visit your parents, you may have noticed it – the accumulating clutter, the empty refrigerator or the scratches on the car door. All of this could signal that you may have a loved one who isn’t living as safely as they could be.
As our parents age, it’s natural for us to be more concerned about their well-being, but starting a conversation about these topics can be awkward. Part of the reason for this is that the roles have been reversed. As a youngster, you had to listen to your parents give you advice and you may have chosen to ignore their counsel at times. Now you want them to listen to you and they may be equally resistant to your advice. Additionally, these are sensitive topics, where intentions can be easily misunderstood – parents may mistake a concern for their well-being as an attempt to erode their independence.
But when your loved one’s safety is at stake, the alternate to not having a conversation could have disastrous consequences. Experts agree that the best time to have such conversations is before a crisis occurs. A series of smaller conversations – over a cup of coffee or an evening cocktail – can pave the way to consensus on actions to take in the future.
Here are some tips on how to have “the conversation” with your parents. These tips work regardless of the topic – whether it’s expressing concern over the fact that they’re still driving or considering moving to a senior living community.

  • Look for opportunities

It’s likely many of your parents’ friends are experiencing similar challenges. If your mother mentions a neighbor who recently fell and had to go to the hospital, ask what steps she’s taking to ensure she doesn’t find herself in a similar situation.

  • Be empathetic to their situation

Embrace a spirit of compassion and respect. Change is hard for most people and can be particularly hard when it means acknowledging getting older and having to adjust to new realities. Show your parents that you understand their concerns and that your greatest wish for them is for their optimum well-being.

  • Be willing to hear opposing points of view

While you may be primarily interested in your parents’ safety, they may be more interested in retaining their independence. Stay open and really listen to their concerns and then work with them to find a solution that meets everyone’s objectives.

  • Avoid bringing up past disagreements or issues

No matter how close a family is, most have experienced some conflict and disagreement along the way. Avoid bringing these issues to the table, if at all possible. Stay focused on the future and what’s in the best interests of everyone involved.

  • Offer to be a resource

If you’re meeting resistance, offer to help find solutions. If it’s giving up the car keys, provide a list of transportation options. If it’s moving to a senior living community, find some communities and go there with your parents to take a look. Let your parents know they’re not in this alone and you’ll be with them along the way.
If you’re not sure what may be best for your loved one, ProperCare can help assess your loved one’s situation and make recommendations for how they can be safe while continuing to enjoy their independence.

Categories: Caregiving, Geriatric Care

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