Having conversations with your parents about their care can be very stressful. The stress can even be multiplied when you bring your other family members or loved ones into the conversation. Further stress comes when worries start to arise about how your parents and loved ones will react to the broaching of this delicate subject. Will they be hurt? Will they be angry? Will your relationship with them suffer? As a result of all these factors, many people will outright avoid or delay this imperative conversation. In order to help mediate some of this stress, we have developed several tips to help you prepare and have a productive conversation with your parents about their care.
It can be very difficult to start a conversation about anyone’s care; however, it is even more uncomfortable or awkward to initiate a conversation about your parents care with them or with other family members. Despite this difficulty though, you are never going to be certain of what others think if you do not talk to them. Moreover, waiting can make the conversation even harder to have. It helps to prepare ahead of this conversation by coming up with questions and talking points that you would like to cover with your loved ones. Your conversation might occur when not all involved members may be present, so remember to plan ways to keep everyone in the loop and avoid unexpected surprises for them and you.
Ask and then listen
After taking the difficult first step of initiating the conversation, sit back and listen to your loved ones. What are their concerns? What are their worries? Actively listen to your loved ones and try not to dismiss any points they bring up—no matter how inconsequential as they may seem to you. They are obviously important to your loved ones, for one reason or another, and as such deserve your time and consideration.
Collaborate on solutions
Instead of presenting your solutions as absolute, present your solutions to your loved ones more as suggestions that are open for discussion. No one likes to feel like they are being forced onto a specific path of action. They are much more likely to be open to your ideas if you are willing to discuss them. More importantly, keep yourself open for alternative solutions. Someone else might be able to present an even better course of action, because of their different perspective on the problem.
There is bound to be more than one concern brought up by you and your loved ones. Instead of trying to tackle the whole lot from the start, prioritize concerns from those that need to be addressed most immediately to those that can stand to wait. Make sure to discuss this within the group. Remember that there may not be a consensus. Instead you might choose to create a prioritized action plan within your family as to who is doing what and in which order.
Make sure not to take on too much. Trying to rush things can lead both to burn out and mistakes; neither of which is good for you or your loved ones. As suggested above, try to spread duties across a couple of family members and friends that are willing and able to take them on. Many hands make light work. To avoid confusion, be explicit in who is doing what and make sure everyone is aware of who is responsible for what.
Remember that these types of decisions do not resolve themselves overnight. Instead, think of the conversation about your loved one’s care as a process and processes take time! Try also not to fixate on what you cannot accomplish now. This is one of the main sources of stress for caregivers when making decisions about their loved ones care. Try instead to come up with healthy outlets that can divert your attention and give you a chance to unwind.