Many adult children fear talking to their parents about the tough choices ahead, such as having care in the home. Sound Options helps families with these discussions regularly and can help you too. Here are some basics:
At every step include your elderly family member in the decision-making process to the extent that he or she is able to participate. Address areas of concern and care options with him or her. If you have the services of a professional geriatric care manager, have them present during your discussion. It can make a big difference to have a neutral third party professional involved in the discussions.
Be sensitive to the senior’s preferences and feelings. Acknowledge his or her desires even if they’re different from yours. It is normal for even the closest of families to experience increased levels of emotion and strain in this situation. Fear and anger may cause confusion or create communication barriers. It is not unusual for seniors in need of care to resist help initially. Fear of losing independence, a mistrust of “strangers,” concerns about money, and resistance to change in general all play a role in making decisions.
Remember the following and you’ll have better success in communicating with your senior loved one (and others in your family):
Listen for the meaning behind your elderly loved one’s words. By acknowledging their fears, concerns, or other emotions, you will provide a measure of comfort. Find common ground and express agreement whenever possible. If you can both agree on the problem, you will stand a better chance of coming up with solutions that are acceptable to everyone.
Know your limitations as a caregiver. A family member, parent, or significant other may want you to be the only caregiver. However, he or she must understand that this is not always possible, and that you may need to enlist the services of others from outside the home. Setting limits may be difficult at first, but once you do, you may find that family members worry less, knowing that you’re taking care of yourself. Also, by effectively communicating your limits, you will take much of the guesswork out of planning and problem solving.
Ask for help from others. If your family member is resistant to help or has an illness such as Alzheimer’s disease that affects his or her judgment or ability to make good decisions, consider the services of a trusted third party such as a geriatric care manager to help in reviewing the options and mediating the situation.
Published on May 30, 2012.