Productive Conversations With Aging Loved Ones

5 Tips for Having Productive Conversations With Aging Loved Ones

A lot of important decisions have to be made as your loved one ages. It’s important to think about where they’re going to live, how they’re going to receive care if they need it, and how they are going to make their finances last. Unfortunately, they may not be willing to have those conversations with you.

That doesn’t mean you should stop having those conversations altogether! It just means you have to adjust how you approach important conversations so your loved one is more likely to listen and engage.

1. Help Them Understand Their Options for the Future

Is your loved one hesitant to talk about the possibility of having to move out of their home? It could be the case that they’re worried about moving into a nursing home, even if they don’t say it out loud. Make sure your loved one understands they have so many other options!

Make it a point to talk about different options, and get excited about their ability to choose the one that works best for them. Options seniors have today include:

  1. Independent living within a senior living community
  2. Assisted living in a care community
  3. Nursing home care
  4. In-home nursing services
  5. Community-based services, like Meals on Wheels

Emphasize the fact that they don’t have to make a huge life-changing decision right away. For example, they could choose independent living and transition to a level of assisted care that works for them when the time comes.

2. Ask Them What They Want

You probably think you know where your loved one would be happiest and healthiest as they age. However, it isn’t uncommon for loved ones to completely disagree.

Instead of trying to find ways to convince them to do what you want, open up the conversation and ask what they want. Even if they are being stubborn about aging in place at home, you can talk about ways to make that easier for them. For example, something as simple as a medical alert system could give everyone peace of mind as they continue living at home alone.

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3. Ask Questions Instead of Giving Advice

You probably have an idea of what it means for your loved one to age safely and happily. It’s easy to start giving them advice about how to do that. You may tell a parent that they should try to get out of the house more or you might tell grandma that she needs to do the dishes more often.

No matter how well-intentioned, giving advice when it isn’t asked for is likely to end the conversation and you aren’t going to get them to change their ways. Instead, try guiding your loved one without giving them advice. One way to do that is to ask questions.

Do they feel lonely? Is there something they would like to try doing that would make them feel less lonely? Why do the dishes tend to pile up in the sink? Do they have the right sponges, soap, and scrubbers to make the job easier?

By asking questions, they’ll feel like you’re working with them instead of just telling them what to do.

4. Avoid Arguing

It’s normal for our loved ones to say things that make us angry and we want to argue our point. However, no matter how right you think you are, it’s not a good idea to argue with an aging parent or grandparent.

Whether you’re arguing about a household chore or you remember an important event differently than they do, it’s usually better to change the subject or simply sit and listen than it is to argue, especially if your loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia, as aggression and anger are common with these diseases.

Read next: Elderly Health: The Complete Guide to Aging Well

5. Make Getting Help About You

Do you feel like you’re hitting a brick wall because your loved one tells you that they don’t need help or they don’t need to do things differently because they are completely capable and they have managed to make it work on their own this long? Make it about you instead.

As soon as you notice the signs that your aging parent needs help, tell them that they would be doing you a favor by getting some help. That way you worry less. If they feel like they are doing something for you instead of the other way around, they just may agree!

Whether you’re talking about moving, switching up their daily routine, or their finances, these tips will help you have productive conversations with your loved ones as they age.

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