Improving Communication with Aging ParentsDifficult Topics with Aging ParentsMary Alexander: Hi! I am Mary Alexander from Home Instead Senior Care. Today, I'm discussing tips for effective communication with seniors. Some of the most difficult topics to address with your aging loved ones are, moving from their home, finances, driving and health issues. In this video, we will give you possible scenarios about each of these issues from both your and your parents' perspectives.
Scenario OneDiscussing Living SituationsYour parents have lived in the same home for over 40 years. It's full of memories of a happy life that provide them comfort. But your parents have fallen twice over the last few months. Every time you suggest to move from the family home, the subject gets changed. Research shows that the most difficult topic for adult children to discuss with their aging parents is that they have to leave their home.
First thing to consider is that both you and your parents are experiencing the subject of leaving their home differently. For you, what to do about your parent has become one of the primary items on your mental to-do list. When you visit, you notice the unsteadiness when walking. So you raise the issue again of the assisted living facility nearby, and they change the subject. From your perspective your parents are being stubborn and uncooperative. You wonder why they can't just deal with the issue. For your parents, several things are going on at the same time. There are control issues and the thought of giving up the lifelong home maybe too much to contemplate. At the same time, there is dread at the thought of going to a place where everyone is unknown, and also, having to follow someone else's rules and schedules.
Given all of these doubts and fears, it's easier to avoid the matter altogether by simply changing the subject. Of the difficult topics, 21% of adult say that money and finances is near the top of the list of challenging subjects to broach with older adults.
Scenario TwoDiscussing Financial SituationsBoth of your parents are increasingly frail and forgetful, but they refuse to let you help with bills and other practical matters. Your experience is that you and your siblings agree that your parents need more help. You volunteer to take over their finances, but they insist they can handle the bills.
You noticed on your last visit though, that the desk is in disarray, and bills are buried in papers and books. When you ask about the bills again, your parents say, we're fine dear. We really don't want to be a burden. You're left wanting to tear your hair out. What your parents maybe feeling is that their years of independence are numbered. That life as they've always known it seems to be retreating into memory.
Given all of the changes they face, they are trying to cling to the areas of life they can still manage. They appreciate your concern, but also find it a little insulting. They see it as doing the best they can, even if it's not up to your high standards.
Driving is another hot button, and difficult topic. 30% of adult say that raising the issue of their parents losing driving privileges is the most difficult subject for them to address.
Scenario ThreeSeniors Driving SafelyA neighbor of your 83-year-old parents has called to tell you that they witness seeing your parents' car back into a light pole. Before this call, you may have already recognized changes in driving patterns. For instance, you notice fewer trips at night, because your parents have stopped coming to evening events unless offered a ride.
So after you hear about the accident on your next visit, you point out the damage and say, I'm worried that you're no longer safe on the roads and that others could be at risk as well. But immediately, there is defensiveness and talk, that it was nothing. Now you're left with mixed emotions, because in some ways your parents are acting responsibly. But you're still worried that there maybe concerns with overall driving skills.
For your parents, driving represents freedom and independence. With the car, there is the ability to visit friends, go to the club, and shop without relying on anyone else. If your parents live in a remote area, there may not be public transportation.
If your parents are already feeling like a burden, and have to give up some activities due to age, this is one likely to be seen as the hardest and most constraining. Other difficult topics to talk about with your aging parents are health issues, and the implications they have on so many other areas of life.
Scenario FourSenior Memory IssuesWhen visiting your 85-year-old parents, you see bottles of medication on the kitchen counter, and the bathroom counter, and on their nightstand. You wonder, how is it all kept straight? For the second time in a month, you notice the name of a close friend is forgotten. You wonder, is it Alzheimer's disease or dementia? A senior moment or just a passing phase? More importantly, how do you find out?
So out of concern, you start offering suggestions about pill organizers and doctor visits to check on their memory capabilities. What your parent hears is that you're treating them like a child and feeling you're meddling. They're thinking there are good reasons why some of the medications are in the kitchen, because they're being taken with food while others are on the nightstand, because those are taken before bed. Then, they think I've always been bad with names and that you're overreacting.
You may recognize or have experienced some or all of these scenarios. In each case, you can see it's difficult for both parties, but talking about them doesn't have to be impossible. In the next video, we will give you methods of how to approach the communication of these delicate subjects.