Many families today are facing the important issue of having one or more aging parents reaching the point where they can no longer care for themselves as they once did. Understanding and accepting that point in life is difficult for most people, regardless of their age.
It's not easy to admit that one's physical abilities have deteriorated with age and that many of the seemingly simple activities of daily life are slipping past one's capabilities. This is a time when family members usually have to step in, but even beginning to discuss such issues can be difficult, and reaching decisions about health services, living arrangements, financial situations and similar topics related to loss of independence can be very frustrating.
Numerous emotional elements play into what are always going to be life-changing discussions about decisions regarding assisted living, surrendering a driver's license, having a will and similar topics.
While these discussions with an aging parent are necessary, there are ways to approach such talks to make them less difficult and more likely to lead to desired results. Some tips to help include:
- Use "I" statements to talk about what you feel regarding an issue. Don't take the position that whatever you believe is correct while the parent's views are simply wrong.
- Plan a good time and place for important conversations where your parent will feel comfortable.
- Don't have multiple family members gang up on your parent. Consider including someone you and your parent mutually trust.
- Don't dominate the discussion. Respect you parent's right to argue and disagree. Listen to your parent's views and ideas, especially when the subject involves major decisions.
- Don't be judgmental or dictate what "has to be." This only helps initiate a stubborn fight.
- Accept that making necessary decisions will take time. Your job is to offer advice and support, not demand how things must change immediately. Even when there seem to be no alternatives, it will take time for an aging parent to accept the inevitable.
It can be emotionally difficult for the parent, as well as the child, when that aging parent can no longer manage living on his or her own. Effective discussions on changes can be much more productive, and far less traumatic, than simply trying to dictate decisions. And if extra help is needed, consider seeking out a professional counselor who specializes in geriatric issues.