Communicating With Aging Parents

Posted on

Jul 19, 2012


Utah - Utah

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Nothing is harder than to take a loved one who is aging and whose capacities are diminishing and to help them make the tough decisions that will ensure their safety. How do you balance your parents need for independence and your need that they and others around them are secure? Below is a list of four steps that will show you how to communicate with your aging parents and to better show them how much you C.A.R.E..
Choose The Spirit of Working With Them, Not Against Them
Remember when it comes to creating healthy results with others, your best tool is the spirit you choose to approach the other person with. Whether you bring a spirit of competition or cooperation is the best determinant of the options, choices, and ability you will have to resolve the problems you're facing. Remember that before you try to convince your parents of what is best for them, you must first convince them that you really understand them and the problems they're facing. Make sure that you don't allow the problem, whether it is bringing in extra help around the house, moving them into senior living or restricting driving privileges to become something that comes between you two. Love them unconditionally and show them that you will be there for support no matter what. The simple spirit that you care will go a long way to creating the change that is necessary.
Attend to the Emotional Needs First, and the Logical Needs Second
I know that the idea of waiting to deal with the logical issues until after the emotional issues sounds crazy . . . because sometimes the decisions we are making with our aging parents could be about life and death, right? In the end however, I've found that the fastest way to get to healthier solutions with your parents will usually be with them, instead of against them. So you're going to have to go through their emotion anyway. Remember that you cant meet a need you don't understand from their frame of reference. So if you cant find a way to show you care about their emotion, you'll never get access to change their way of thinking about the issue. The rule for this section is simply: I don't care how much you know, until I know how much you care. The more urgent the situation, then, the more necessary it is to get very active in addressing the highly emotional feelings that lie deep down inside the person. In the end its important to realize that you are not going to solve the logical problems of your parents lives without effectively validating and handling the emotional issues first. No matter how logical the issues are, people are still emotional beings.
Relax & Recognize that Slower, Usually is Faster
Sometimes it takes each of us time to be willing to let the obvious changes in our lives to take place. Have you ever needed to get your tooth fixed, and still delayed a while just to avoid the obvious procedure and its accompanying pain? Inherently people want to do things on their terms, their way and on their timeframe. That human need echoes back to the deep inner sense that we are actors in our lives who are to act, and not be acted upon. The problem arises when our parents mental or physical abilities start to diminish and their actions have the potential to either harm others or themselves. This pressure to protect our parents and others drives us to feel even more and more compelled to act quickly and decisively. Most of these difficult decisions are very hard to do quickly so start anticipating the changes your parents will need over the next year or two and begin laying the ground work for those changes. Try to create buy-in, not by talking about what we are going to change today with your parents, but by discussing what will need to take place down the road. This slower approach may allow the ideas of change to drip slowly into their system and will feel more like its in their control.
Explore Outside Experts to Communicate For You.
Who you are speaks so loudly, people cant hear what you're saying. That little quote perfectly summarizes the reality that many times you are not the best person to tell your parents anything. Many times you are not the best person to communicate the cold hard truths about your parents need for help simply because in their eyes you are still just a child. Perhaps it would be better to have you be the supportive hand that is sitting next to your parent as their doctor, the police department or Drivers License division takes their license away. As a professional, I have seen on countless occasions where people are more inclined to believe what I have to say than the person closest to them. Sometimes it is my credentials, my approach or the fact that they are paying to hear it that makes it all more legitimate. Don't be afraid to call in other experts. Talk to their doctors, or other experts to get advice and support in how to proceed, and whenever possible, let the professionals deliver the news and you just sit there and love and support them through it.
Editors Note: This article was submitted by Matt Townsend, M.A. founder of Townsend Relationship Center, a communication skill building company, or call at 801-747-2121

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