We embrace aging in our communities, but at the same time realize that change is often scary for families. While life can still be vibrant and full as your loved one begins to need extra support, having conversations about the changes that may be needed can be some of the most difficult to have. These communication dos and don’ts can help make it easier.
Common Fears about Aging
No one wants to think of themselves as old, but starting to need help with things you’ve always done on your own is a sure-fire way to feel that way. It sparks one of our greatest fears: loss of independence. Other common fears about aging include:
- Declining health
- Running out of money
- Having to move from home
- Losing loved ones
- Having to depend on others
- Not being able to drive
- Being isolated and lonely
- Falling or becoming disabled
It’s important to keep these fears in mind as you have conversations with your loved one about the future as it can help to put their state of mind into perspective.
Communication Tips to Make Conversations about Aging Easier
How do you start the conversation? What can you do to make it more productive? How can you get your points across without upsetting your loved one? Follow these dos and don’ts:
- Get talking points together – We can’t say enough how important it is to prepare for such an important and potentially emotional conversation. Putting talking points together ahead of time will ensure you remember what you want to say and can help everyone stay focused.
- Have empathy and patience – Remember the fears above and take them to heart. This is your loved one’s future and your empathy as well as patience will make them less defensive.
- Be casual and positive – Doing so makes it easier for them to open up with you as will asking questions about their needs and wants for the future such as:
- How can we support your independence?
- Would you prefer having meals prepared instead of having to cook?
- How do you feel about driving now?
- How often are you able to connect with friends?
- Are there any new hobbies you’d like to try or things you’d like to learn?
- Do you have enough opportunities to stay active and have fun?
- Are the house and yard becoming more than you want to manage?
- Debunk senior living myths – Many seniors get hung up on those old myths about senior living so make sure to educate your loved one on the many benefits of today’s communities like the active, carefree lifestyle, abundant amenities and the social as well as enrichment opportunities. Not to mention the peace of mind that a continuum of care brings.
- Dictate a plan to your loved one – This is one of the fastest ways to make your loved one feel it’s you versus them. Remember, you’re all on the same side and your loved one should definitely feel that way. This is their future after all! Instead, be collaborative from the beginning and in doing so, they may even be relieved to open up to you.
- Parent your parent – Most definitely share your concerns, but regardless of how your roles may be shifting, it’s important they feel respected and heard as your parent. Otherwise, they are less likely to share their true feelings or concerns, it could strain your relationship going forward AND make them more resistant to the idea of needing extra support.
- Make them afraid – As we mentioned above, your loved one likely has plenty of concerns on their own even if they haven’t yet discussed them with you. Feeding into that will only make them feel worse. Rather, acknowledge their fears in a way that offers solutions, new perspectives and perhaps even helps them to look forward to new opportunities such as living their best life in senior living.
Creating a Comfortable Setting
Another important point to consider is that it’s not just what you say, it’s also the setting as well as who’s involved. So, select a time when you and your loved one are free from distractions to allow the conversation to go at its own pace. Also consider a place where you have privacy, yet is also comfortable for everyone, particularly your loved one. What’s more, reach out to any family member who should be part of the discussion to get their input and ask them to join the conversation (even via Zoom if necessary).
For more information, join us for “It is time to have THE TALK? Tough Conversations with Aging Loved Ones,” a Facebook Live Q&A event on February 11 at 6 p.m. CST. Or, contact us today to schedule a virtual tour.