How to Have Difficult Conversations With Your Senior Loved One
March 31, 2023
As a loved one of a senior, it is well known that not all topics are easily addressed and digestible. Some conversations that need to be addressed might be awkward or taboo. Some examples of uncomfortable topics are the need for further assistance, such as in-home care or community placement, inability to drive, financial information, and even death. While these discussions aren’t easy, it is essential to approach these conversations with sensitivity and empathy.
Below are a few helpful tips on how to guide these complicated topics:
Respect your senior's boundaries: Begin the conversation by acknowledging that the topic you want to discuss may be sensitive or uncomfortable. Mentioning that puts your senior at a sense of ease, knowing you, too, are only somewhat comfortable with the topic. Ask if they are willing to talk about it and respect the decision if they decline. These conversations standardly are the beginning phase of a longer journey. It is alright if they are not fully ready to begin this conversation. Even if you disagree, show respect and empathy for your loved one's feelings and opinions. This ultimately is their decision, depending on the topic, even if it is not a choice that you would have made. Avoid attacking or blaming them and focus on finding a solution together.
Chose the right time and place: Pick a time and place where your loved one feels comfortable and safe. Avoid public places or situations where they may feel embarrassed or vulnerable. It is essential to provide them with a ‘safe place’ where they feel at ease to further discuss difficult situations with you. It is also essential to take breaks if needed. If the conversation becomes too emotional or overwhelming for your senior loved one, it’s okay to take a break and revisit the topic at a later time.
Use comprehensible language: Be mindful of your language and tone of voice. Avoid using harsh or judgmental words, and try to frame the conversation to show you care about their emotions and feelings. While the topic might be something that needs addressing on a higher level, the information must be provided to your senior in a way that they can understand why it is being brought up and that you are there to assist them through this difficult journey. Use clear and simple language that your loved one can understand. Avoid using technical terms or complex terminology that may confuse or overwhelm them. Ensure that your senior leaves the conversation knowing you are there to support them and understand why this topic is being discussed.
Actively listen: Listen carefully to what your loved one has to say. Show that you are there to support them and avoid interrupting or dismissing their concerns. Ultimately, this discussion can be life-altering for your senior. Ensure you give them your undivided attention during these difficult conversations and actively address any concerns that might arise. Remember that active listening is more than just hearing what your loved one is saying. It is about showing them that you care about them and this challenging conversation.
Be patient: It may take time for your loved one to open up or feel comfortable discussing the topic. Be patient and respectful, and don’t push them to discuss something they’re not ready to discuss. Certain conversations might need to be addressed more than once. Make sure you are prepared to readdress this conversation if needed.
Offer support: Let your loved one know that you are there to support them and they can come to you with any concerns or questions. Reassure them they are not alone and that you will do everything you can to help them. Also, provide them with resources that can assist with this transition, such as your local senior advisor.
Discussing taboo topics can be complex and take time, but it can also be an essential step in strengthening your relationship with your loved one and helping them feel heard and understood.
If you or your family need assistance and resources during any transition or difficult conversations, contact your local Oasis Advisor today at (888) 455-5838.