Having Difficult Conversations With Your Parents

Posted on

Jul 19, 2012


Utah - Utah

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Nothing makes adult children more nervous than finding the right words to use when bringing up concerns about their loved one. Maybe you are worried because your dad is living alone and think he would be better off in an assisted living apartment, or you think that your mom should not be driving anymore. You might be struggling with how to bring up the conversation about end of life wishes. These conversations can be very challenging and frustrating.
So how do you start to talk to your parents about the future? For most of us it would seem natural to start by making a plan or a list of topics to check off. While a plan is important, it is equally important to realize that often we may be so focused on what we want to say that the conversation becomes one-sided, and we may not take time to consider our parents feelings. Resistance breeds resistance; if you approach a difficult conversation with an ultimatum in mind you probably will be met with an equal amount of challenge. However; if you approach it as Steven Covey would advise seeking first to understand, you may be surprised and pleased at the result.
The most effective approach to difficult conversations is to begin by asking your parent about his or her feelings. Some examples are How does it make you feel when I talk to you about moving? You may even try a validation statement like, You hate the idea of depending on others to drive you around. I would be upset too. The more honest conversations you have, the more positive results you get when it is decision time.
Remember we do not grow old in a day and likewise, the process of preparing for the future is not something that can be accomplished in one afternoon. So be prepared to start small. If you have a conversation on a sensitive subject, be ready for a no. This happens a lot. Do not become discouraged; give them time to think about it. Respect the fact that, change to many people, is a kin to loss. Letting go may take some time.
There are times when you will not have the luxury of taking your time. This may be when your parent is unable to reason due to Dementia or if your parent is in physical danger and cannot be independent at home. At times like these it would be wise to seek out a professional to guide you. Social workers and case managers are readily available in most health care settings. Using the skills of a professional to act as a mediator, facilitator or advocate is wise and can help preserve precious family relationships.
The need to face some difficult conversations may never go away, however; these ideas may help bring you closer to your loved one and make the process more gratifying.
Editors Note: This article was submitted by Natalie Moyle MA, LAPC.
Natalie is a Geriatric Care Manager with Home Option Personal Care and may be reached at 801-274-9100 or by email at nataliem@homeoptionpersonalcare.com. For more information visit www.careutah.com

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