AGING IN PLACE: Having “the talk” with older relatives

Experts offer tips on bringing up the conversation about about home health care or moving to a senior living community
Beckie Spaid with Care Advantage offers guidance of approaching the awkward topic of home health care with aging loved ones
Published: Aug. 8, 2023 at 6:26 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - When you were a kid, you probably had “the awkward talk” with your parents about the birds and the bees.

Decades later, your roles have changed. Now it’s time for you to talk to your parents about considering home health care or moving to a senior living community.

According to Senior Home Care Specialist with Care Advantage Beckie Spaid, it’s common for older adults to put up a little or a lot of resistance to the subject.

“While it’s common to procrastinate difficult discussions, the best way to take the sting out of it is to discuss this before a parent or other loved one needs care. Ask them what they would want if they needed assistance with dressing, bathing, meals or if they needed more medical care,” says Spaid.

She offers some steps and strategies that can reduce the stress surrounding conversations about care, and minimize your parent’s resistance to considering it:

Connect to a Past Experience-

Ask your parents if they had a loved one who needed more assistance and care than they or anyone in the family could provide. Ask them what the situation was, what the resolution was, and how they felt about it. Tapping into those feelings can shed some light on what may be going on for your parent.

Take a Walk in Their Shoes-

t’s important to acknowledge your parents’ fears regarding the future and their disappointment with not being able to function independently. Empathize and give them an opportunity to share their sadness and frustration about losing independence and try to connect to their feeling. Ask questions about how things are going, or how they’re feeling about falling more often.

Choose Your Words Carefully-

Avoid saying things like “You need/have to...” or “You should...” These phrases take control away from your parent and will likely put your mom or dad on the defensive.

Collaboration is also helpful. Instead of telling your mom she is forgetful and will burn the house down and can no longer live alone, share your concerns and ask collaborative questions like, ‘How can we work together to keep you safe?’”

Time it Right-

It’s tempting to bring up the idea of your parent needing assisted living or more care than the current level in a moment of frustration. However, this conversation is better suited to a time when cooler heads prevail.

In the heat of the moment, stick to expressing concern. Ask if that fall or near-fall was scary. Then discuss it, and possible care decisions stemming from the incident, at a calmer time.

Build a Village-

It’s tempting to charge into the situation and want to take control in the best interest of your parent. Don’t. Rather than taking control, gather your loved one’s opinions and desires and then act as an advocate to see them fulfilled as close to the intentions as possible.