Are you feeling like you don’t know how to have tough conversations with your parents? Are you concerned about their safety, but not sure where to start the conversation? Are you feeling like your parents just don’t understand your concerns?
You may be trying to get them to accept homecare services, take their medications, move to a safer living situation or accept some additional help. You may have tried to have these tough conversations about these concerns before and it didn’t go well. Or you may feel like they will still think of you as a little kid and not value your concerns. You are not alone. I guide many families through many tough conversations.
Here are some guidelines to consider, should you have to have these tough conversations with your parents or other aging loved one.
Is the concern yours or theirs?
Many times I find families are very concerned about situation, that their loved one does not care about. Adult children want dad to accept homecare to help with his medication, but he thinks he is managing fine with them. Or mom is eating, but not 3 meals a day and not fully cooked meals like she once did. Mom seems content with what she is eating but the children feel it is not a good situation. This can take some soul searching and looking at a concern from both sides. Is this something worth bringing to the table – or is this just your concern. If it’s your concern, then you need to work to get the information and resources to help alleviate your concerns. If this is also a concern for your parents, or their health or safety, then it may be worth bringing up.
Pick your battles
You may have 2 or 3 or even more concerns. But pick one. Pick one that most urgently needs to be addressed or has the most health and safety consequences. Your parents will feel attacked if you come at them with a laundry list of concerns. Pick the most concerning one and start there.
Plan for peace
Bringing your concerns up in middle of an argument or as you are rushing to the doctors office is not a good plan. Plan when to have your conversation, when everyone is at peace and content.
Make the concern YOUR concern
Instead of pointing blame at your parents saying they are refusing services such as meal delivery – frame it as your concern. You may start with “I feel….” or “I need you to know I am concerned about…” or “I am really worried about…” so that you can make it sound less confrontational.
Uncover the motivation for their resistance
Fear is our biggest reason for not moving forward with change. Is your parent afraid of losing their independence, are they afraid you are wanting them placed in a nursing home, are they afraid of losing control of the situation? Perhaps they are experiencing depression that is affecting their unwillingness to address the concerns. Maybe this is a habit of usual behaviour in how they deal with any complex. Once you can uncover their motivation for why they are resistant or unwilling to accept their changing needs, you have a better understanding of how you can help them understand the situation.
Sometimes a professional is best
We tend to not take advice well from family. There may be past history or trauma there, or we just feel like they are nagging. Sometimes asking a trusted professional to have the tough conversaton can have very different outcomes. Whether you engage their family physician, a homecare case manager, or even a housing specialist like myself, it may be the breakthrough you need. Sometimes someone outside of the family dynamic can see things a little differently. Your loved one may also put more weight on the same words coming from a professional rather than from you. It may be worth a try if you are having trouble having these conversations.
Give it some time
No one likes change overnight. so once you have your conversation, give it some time to sink in. Sometimes it takes some time for them to truly digest all that you are saying. Sometimes it takes some time away from the emotional conversation to see how much you actually care about them.
Whatever you do – come from a place of love and support. Change isn’t easy for anyone, but as we age, all of us cling more strongly to the familiar. No one likes to admit they may need help or may not be as independent as they thought they were. So be gentle, take your time, and keep as calm as you can during the conversations. You got this, and if you feel you need a professional to assist – I’m here for you!
Share with me in the comments below – what was the toughest conversation you’ve had so far with your aging loved ones?