Having Tough Conversations With Aging Parents

Tips for Having Tough Conversations With Aging Parents

Adult children of aging parents face a unique challenge — how will they make sure their parents receive the care they need as they transition into the latter stages of their lives? Will they need to move their parents into an assisted living facility, or can they find ways to help their parents age in place? And how can they make sure they’re honoring their parents’ desires in these decisions?

While you may know it’s time to start thinking about your parents’ plans for long-term care, it’s tough to have these conversations when you don’t know how or where to start. We know it’s a challenging time for you and your family, and we aim to help make this process easier for you.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to talk to aging parents without being dismissive of their feelings and wishes.

Understanding the Emotional Terrain

Conversations about aging and end-of-life plans are hard for everyone involved, and a critical part of preparing for these discussions is considering how your parents may react emotionally.

Being sensitive to their emotional state can help you keep the conversation going and prevent feelings of resentment or defensiveness.

Practicing Empathy and Patience in Caregiving Conversations

Practicing Empathy and Patience

The language you use and the attitude with which you approach the topic play a huge role in how well a discussion will go. Some empathetic communication tips for difficult conversations include:

  • Openness: Your parents should feel like they can freely express their thoughts and desires without being shut down. Using active listening techniques and choosing a comfortable setting can help you create that atmosphere of openness.
  • Acknowledgment: Even if you disagree with what your parents are saying, it’s still important to acknowledge their beliefs and opinions.
  • Reflection: Take acknowledgment one step further by taking time to respond to what your parents say. Pair your understanding of their situation with a reflection of what they may be feeling to make them feel heard and understood.
  • Respect: One of the easiest ways to shut down a conversation is to disrespect the other person’s wishes. Make it clear that you value your parents’ input throughout the discussion so they feel comfortable talking to you.

Finally, it’s important to remember that your parents may try to avoid having this conversation for a while. They may not have had enough time to accept their situation, and that’s okay.

When you’re broaching the conversation for the first time, try to go into it with a flexible mindset. As long as they aren’t facing an urgent medical or financial crisis, it may be best to give them some space and return to the conversation when they’re a little more comfortable talking about it.

Communication Techniques in Caregiving

Active listening is critical for tough conversations like these. Not only does using this skill show your parents you care, but it also helps you deepen your understanding of the situation.

Some helpful active listening tips include:

  • Use active body language: Good body language subconsciously demonstrates that you’re interested in what the other person is saying, which can encourage them to continue. Steady eye contact, leaning forward and nodding at appropriate times are all good cues to use.
  • Let them finish: Give your parents your undivided attention and resist the temptation to interrupt them when it arises.
  • Eliminate distractions: Be as present as possible when talking to your parents. Silence your phone, turn off the TV and choose a quiet space that’s free of anything that could disrupt your discussion.
  • Repeat their words: Restate what they’re saying in your own words to make sure you understand them. This simple action also shows them you’re listening and you care what they have to say.
  • Ask questions: At appropriate times, ask open-ended questions to better understand the situation.
  • Validate their feelings: Your parents may just want you to acknowledge that they’re having a difficult time dealing with the challenges of aging before they’re willing to negotiate. Be empathetic and consider how you’d feel in their situation.

Additionally, pay attention to body language and other non-verbal cues that might reveal how your parents are really feeling. Many people tend to hide their emotions when they feel scared or defensive, but small gestures such as fidgeting can tell a different story.

Make sure your parents know you care and you want the best for them. The more empathetic you can be, the better.

Preparing for Difficult Discussions With Aging Parents

Mentally preparing yourself to have conversations about aging gives you a solid foundation to lean back on if the discussion takes an uncomfortable turn. That said, try not to put off the conversation for too long — it’s best to address your concerns before a medical or financial emergency can happen.

Identifying the Right Moment to Talk

Mother and Daughter Having a Serious Conversation

It’s best to start talking to your parents about aging early on, but springing the conversation on them out of the blue is unlikely to produce the results you want. This is especially true if you don’t have enough evidence to justify your decision.

First, take some time to observe how well your parents are navigating their day-to-day lives. Try to find opportunities to gather information about your specific concerns — for example, if you’re worried about your dad’s driving, you can tag along with him on a few errand runs. If you don’t see your parents often, you can ask the people they regularly interact with to provide some insight.

You’ll also want to make sure you start the conversation in a supportive, private environment that encourages open discussion. Here are some helpful tips for having difficult conversations:

  • Stay at home: The best place to have a tough conversation is in your parents’ home, where they feel most at ease.
  • Avoid forceful language: Present your points without sounding accusatory or aggressive. Using gentle language and expressing your empathy will help soften your tone.
  • Ease into the conversation: Using an indirect conversation starter can relax you so you can broach the topic in a way that sounds more natural.
  • Have alternatives prepared: Before you suggest making any changes, you need to have some kind of solution in mind.
  • Ask their opinion: Ask your parents what they think about the solutions you suggest. They may already have ideas about what they want to do.

Once you have a place in mind and a strong case, consider how you want the conversation to go. It can help to jot down the most important points you want to address so you remember to bring them up when it’s time.

Addressing Mobility Concerns With Your Aging Parents

As people age, it becomes harder to complete many of the physical tasks we take for granted. Getting dressed, walking up and down the stairs, bringing in the groceries and cleaning the house can become painful as muscles atrophy and joints wear down. Many older people who experience serious falls will also develop a fear of falling and stop exercising to avoid another incident, which can cause further issues.

With the right support, though, your parents may be able to continue living on their own while enjoying a high quality of life.

Understanding Mobility Challenges

Some of the most common conditions behind mobility challenges in aging people include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Chronic pain
  • Disease
  • Joint problems
  • Neurological conditions

When you know what’s causing your parents’ mobility challenges, you can determine whether they should continue living at home or in an assisted living facility. For example, a progressive neurological condition like Alzheimer’s can make navigating the house unsafe without another person around to guide them.

Solutions From Inclinator Company of America

Solutions From Inclinator

If your parents are considering aging in place — staying in the comfort of their home for as long as possible — you might want to look into a home accessibility solution. Installations like residential elevators or dumbwaiters make it safer and easier for people with mobility issues to get around the house.

At Inclinator, we work with our clients to create safe, reliable home elevation systems that meet their unique needs. All our products are designed to meet or exceed ASME A17.3 2016 — the international safety standard for residential elevators — so you and your loved ones can have peace of mind.

The Elevette® residential elevator is highly versatile, with various sizing options available to fit any home. Customization options like in-cab handrails, simple operating panels and LED lighting add to its safety and comfort, and various cab styles offer a match to the interior decor.

The Homewaiter® residential dumbwaiter helps you safely move heavy items, such as grocery bags, garbage and laundry, between floors. With a maximum height of 35 feet and a capacity of up to 120 pounds, we can build your Homewaiter to your exact specifications.

Plus, a home accessibility solution can even raise the home’s resale value. Even if you are considering moving, installing a residential lift now can make your home more attractive to other older buyers who want to age in place.

Why choose Inclinator? Simple — we’re dedicated to providing the best products and services possible. Our caring team will guide you through every step of the design and installation process to ensure your solution fits your loved one’s home perfectly.

Effective Strategies for Talking About Aging in Place

Remember that you’re likely to encounter emotional or generational barriers that make it more difficult to even have a conversation. These strategies can help you move past these obstacles and get to the meat of the discussion without needing to be forceful.

Overcoming Communication Barriers

As we’ve mentioned, your parents may be reluctant to talk about making end-of-life plans. It’s possible you might be starting this conversation before they feel ready to have it. If this is the case, the best thing you can do is take a step back and try again after they’ve had some time to really think about their situation.

However, it’s also possible that they could be in denial about their inability to care for themselves. They may be afraid or embarrassed to admit they need help with everyday tasks, or they might be depressed about facing the end of their lives. While these emotions can make opening a conversation more difficult, they can also be powerful indicators of how your parents are doing.

One of the best things you can do to overcome these barriers is to come prepared with evidence and ideas. The observations you made will help you back up your case and convince them that a change is necessary. Plus, offering potential solutions can help them feel more empowered to face the future by reminding them that there are steps they can take.

Additionally, try to keep the conversation focused on the present. Fixating on the past or pushing too far into the future can make your loved ones defensive or anxious, which can lead to a dead end.

Working Together to Find a Solution

For many people, the thought of losing their independence is one of the scariest parts of aging. Unless you’re responding to an emergency, you should avoid trying to force your parents into feeling like they have to immediately make drastic changes to their lives.

It can help to start with important questions about their physical and financial situation, including:

  • What health insurance coverage do you have, and is it enough?
  • What are your top health concerns for the future?
  • Do you have any plans for long-term care, if it becomes necessary?
  • Where would you prefer to live if you can no longer safely stay at home?
  • What is your financial situation like?
  • Who would you like to take care of your finances if you can’t do it yourself?
  • Where do you keep important documents?

Their answers will give you a solid jumping-off point for determining the best plan of action moving forward.

Open Communication and Support Are Essential

When you think you’re ready to have this tough conversation, start planning your strategy as soon as possible. Being proactive will help reduce the risk of needing to plan in the middle of a crisis, which is better for everyone in your family.

It’ll also help you feel more at ease when it’s finally time to sit down and talk. And the more relaxed and prepared you are, the easier the conversation will go. As long as you make it clear you want to honor your parents’ wishes and support them through the rest of their lives, you can find a solution that works for all of you.

Explore Home Accessibility

Explore Home Accessibility Solutions From Inclinator

At Inclinator Company of America, we understand how tough it is for aging parents to think about losing their independence. That’s why we’ve dedicated ourselves to building custom home accessibility solutions that are as beautiful as they are reliable.

We also provide ongoing support and maintenance, so whatever products you choose, you can count on us to help you support your parents as they age in place.

Learn more about how our products can keep your parents safe and comfortable for years to come. Fill out our brief online form to find your nearest dealer today.

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