How Do I Talk to My Loved Ones About Senior Living?
Some of the most important conversations we need to have with the seniors we love are often the most difficult ones. Whether it be retirement plan ning, selling a home, physical care needs, or whether it’s time to stop driving. The wisdom in planning means having options versus having no or severely limited options. How do we begin to have these much-needed conversations?
1. Recognize the risk of waiting
We tend to wait to have important life planning conversations. There are several reasons for that.
- We fear rejection.
- There is discomfort when speaking the truth into another’s life .
- We think someone else can or should do it .
2. Recognize the signs that a conversation is necessary
- Your loved one’s medication is in disorder.
- There are dents in the car or accidents and damage to the home.
- Changes in appearance or the condition of their home .
- A new chronic illness diagnosis or failing health.
- Appointments are being missed.
- Stacks of mail unopened .
- Bills are not being paid.
- No evidence of meal preparation and/or an empty refrigerator.
3. Understand how to set the stage
Typically, it is best to limit the conversation to immediate family only. A blend of in town and out of town family members is helpful. If it makes sense, it is okay to invite your pastor, priest or rabbi. Here are some other tips to consider:
- Ensure that all family members presenting are on the same page .
- Have a specific agenda & assignments .
- Have facts and observations ready to discuss.
- Do not talk over & listen!
- Do not have the conversation at a family function or holiday setting.
- Provide a comfortable setting & seating.
- Ensure no interruptions (cell phones, TV , etc.).
- Be prepared & pray!
4. Know what to say
- Acknowledge the sensitive topic at hand.
- Say “I love you, I am so very concerned when I see this, we need to talk please.”
- Use humor when possible.
- Stay calm, avoid anger, keep volume down.
- Be respectful.
- Gently present the facts.
- Be curious and ask follow up questions.
- Remark on points of agreement-focus on agreement use as stepping stones.
- Accept compromise when needed to build a plan.
- Expect & accept that a repeat conversation(s) may be needed.
5. Know what not to say
- Avoid demands.
- Avoid personal attacks, accusations, or yelling.
- Avoid grouping all important conversations at once.
- Avoid being emotional.
- Avoid any patronizing speech.
6. Know when to “wrap it up”
- Hugs (as acceptable).
- Express appreciation for having the conversation.
- Summarize action steps.
- Do your part (What is your assignment?).
- Don’t lose momentum.