Some family members hesitate to talk with their aging loved ones about their loved ones’ health and care needs and what’s realistic regarding their future care — Dad’s congestive heart failure makes him unsteady on his feet; Mom is slipping more mentally. What kind of care will they need moving forward?
How do you initiate the conversation with loved ones about health, finances and end-of-life issues? How do you invite positive dialogue among key family members? Anticipated conflicts within the family and communication gaps with healthcare providers add to your caregiver stress. You need help communicating well with your loved ones.
Fortunately, a team of home care professionals has developed a resource guide packed with tools and tips to help adult children understand what they should discuss with older relatives and how to phrase questions. The RightConversationsSM approach is a solutions-driven guide to give families pointers for talking through a relative’s preferences and possibilities for extra assistance to live safely and comfortably at home.
5 Tips to Improve Family Caregiver Communication
To help take the guesswork and frustration out of the communication process, consider these tips as you prepare to talk to senior loved ones:
1. Gather accurate, relevant information to help assess signs of your senior’s changing needs. Are bills being paid? What about spoiled food in the home? Note if the elder can no longer perform certain tasks. Listen to your inner voice. It could be telling you that something is not quite right with your loved one or his/her condition is changing.
2.Review the facts and avoid personal biases so your loved one does not feel judged or pressured into what others want. Be aware that unresolved issues such as built-up anger from the past may block current dialogue. Limit assumptions about your senior’s well-being and stick to factual observations.
3. Involve siblings from the beginning in conversations with your older parent or relative. This may mean putting aside personal challenges with a brother or sister to seek the interests of the parent. Your senior may be sharing varying information with different family members, so it’s important to address these differences upfront.
4. Create a positive conversation by listening with intent to understand rather than to respond. The goal is not to give advice but to express love and concern for your aging loved one. Sharing feelings with a friend, counselor or support group can help keep your emotions in check during family discussions.
5. Be prepared for what to do if your loved one says “no” to suggestions for personal assistance and home care. If the conversation stalls, be prepared to take a step back and give your senior time to think through your words and concerns. Try positive language, such as, “By doing ____, we are able to keep you in your home longer,” or “We can spend more time together by doing ___.”
While it can be disconcerting to see older loved ones show signs of needing more assistance with daily activities, many seniors are actually relieved their families notice and care. Exploring caregiving concerns and options together makes for shared decision-making and meaningful relationships well beyond the initial conversation.
For a complimentary copy of the RightConversations resources and to view videos of having the conversation, visit RightConversations.com.
About the Author
An award-winning journalist who has documented stories in nearly 20 countries, Beth Lueders is an author, writer and speaker who frequently reports on diverse topics, including aging and health issues for both U.S. and international corporations.