September 6, 2011

When Aging Parents Need Help Ten Ways to Open the Door to Discussion

One of the major frustrations for family members is the realization that help is needed for a loved one but they unequivocally refuse to accept any assistance or in many cases to even discuss it. How does one break through this barrier and the intense emotions such discussions generate?
Family members must first understand the nature of topics being discussed. Topics such as finances, living arrangements and driving are very sensitive and emotion laden topics that can lead to an answer such as “I don’t want to discuss it” or “there is nothing wrong”.” Most older people pride themselves on their independence and these are generally topics that were not discussed with one’s children. However, here are ten tips to break the barriers to communication.

  • Open communication before the need arises
  • Allow the older person to retain as much control as possible by suggesting different alternatives to have a say in the decision making process
  • Remind your loved one how much you care for him/her
  • Clarify your concerns and how much more comfortable you will be when you find solutions
  • Validate their feelings
  • Choose time and place carefully. Avoid initiating conversation in a stressful situation.
  • Expect to have more than one conversation
  • Tell them that you are trying to maintain their independence for as long as possible
  • Tell them that the quality of time spend together will be improved
  • Compromise, compromise, compromise

You may want to enlist the assistance of your loved one’s physician or another neutral party. It is often easier for a physician
to tell someone he or she can no longer drive, for example, then for all the anger to be directed at the child. In our Adult Day Health program, we will often tell families to ask the physician to write a “prescription” for adult day health services in order to receive medical interventions that they need. If help is still not accepted, research all your options so you will be ready should an emergency arise.