Having "The Talk" With Your Elderly Loved Ones

July 28, 2020
by TammyS | Health + Beauty

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Having “The Talk” with Your Elderly Loved Ones

Having “The Talk” may be about finances, estate planning, driving, help around the house, companionship or going into a long-term care facility.  These are tough conversations to have with your loved ones as we reverse roles with them and gradually become their watchful eyes and ears.

What are some of the issues that may need to be addressed?

  • Driving – Is it still safe for them to drive or have they been having fender benders or getting confused or lost when driving?
  • Health issues – Do they still get around without difficulty or have they been falling?  Are they beginning to have memory issues that could indicate the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia?  Are they having bladder or bowel incontinence?
  • Can they still perform Activities of Daily Living (bathing, dressing, meal prep, etc.)?
  • Are they having difficulty caring for their home, either inside or out?
  • Do they appear lonely or withdrawn?
  • Can they still efficiently handle their financial affairs and pay bills, mortgage, taxes, etc.?

    If you are wondering how to begin a conversation about any of the above  – you are definitely not alone.  Some of us have loved ones who are very willing to talk about, and even welcome, discussions concerning certain issues.  Others - not so much!  Here are a few tips on how to begin a conversation, regardless of which type your loved one is.

  • Begin by asking if they have any concerns they wish to share with you and listen to them completely when they speak.  Do not rush or interrupt them.
  • Have your conversation in a quiet, private area and let them take their time.
  • Avoid arguing and respect their opinions.  Try to discern what it is that is bothering them and address if possible.  Perhaps it is financial, and you can investigate areas of financial assistance for them.  Or you and your siblings or other family members may be willing to chip in and help pay for a companion or help around the house.
  • Write down items you have discussed and what some of the agree-upon contingency plans may be.  Then, if need be, you can both refer back to it.
  • Remind them they are not the only one experiencing aging issues.  Nearly all elderly people experience difficulties of one sort or another.
  • If there are certain areas you are concerned about, do some research on the subject first.  That way, when you are talking with them you will be able to offer some definitive and alternative solutions.  For example:
    • If they are having incontinence issues, check out the products available to them along with the cost.  And do NOT refer to the products as diapers.
    • If they need help in the home or companionship a few hours a day or week, check out the services available in your area and discuss them together.  It is normal to want to have input and choices.  If they refuse, ask what it is that they are resistant to or nervous about and be respectful of their concerns in discussing with them.
    • If finances are an issue, don’t immediately try to take over.  Ask first if you can be of assistance in any way in the event they fall and become hospitalized or need to go out of town for a while.  That can bring up the need for you to be added to their checking, savings, retirement and other financial accounts and you can keep an eye on things and help if necessary.  Or, it may not be you, but another trusted family member they want to handle finances for them.  Try not to be insulted or hurt if that is the case and follow through with the family member they request.
    • If driving is becoming a concern, do not accuse them of having fender benders or difficulty finding their way around.  Instead ask them if they have any concerns about driving or about older people in general driving and ask what they feel might be in the best interests for themselves and others.  If it is a serious concern and they refuse to give up driving or are experiencing early Alzheimer’s or dementia, you may need to render their vehicle inoperable and/or have a talk with their physician about contacting the DVM to revoke their driver’s license.
  • Once you have had a chance to talk with your loved one, do not try to force a decision right away.  Give them a chance to absorb everything you have both discussed and arrange another date to discuss further.
  • If they are undecided, make a Pros and Cons list with them, being sure to include their thoughts on the list.
  • Communication and patience are key.  If your loved one feels you are not rushing them to make a decision, they may be more willing to consider and discuss options with you.
  • Actively and consciously listen when they are communicating with you.  You may pick up on something that is key to understanding their concerns.
  • Let them know you are there for them to help assist with any solutions they may feel comfortable with at the present time and that you are not trying to make decisions for them.

    However, even if you do everything right, the possibility exists that your loved one will still reject any offer of assistance or change.  After all, they still see you as their child and themselves as caregiver and now the roles are changing.   If this is the case, it may be time to bring in another person that they trust and respect to have The Talk with them.  That person could be another sibling (of yours or theirs), a clergyman, their attorney or physician, etc.  Someone who is not emotionally involved may have a better chance of communicating certain ideas and concepts to them with more positive results.

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