How to Approach Taboo Topics With Seniors and Their Families

How to Approach Taboo Topics With Seniors and Their Families

As a healthcare provider or support individual for seniors and their families, complex topics must be addressed. It’s essential to approach these conversations with empathy, respect, and an open mind, mainly if they include issues that the seniors and their families might not feel comfortable with. 

Here are some tips on how to have tough conversations with seniors and their loved ones:

Choose the right time and place: It’s essential to choose a quiet and private place where you won’t be interrupted or distracted. Ensure that the senior feels comfortable enough to ask questions that might be difficult to address with a crowd or distractions such as a TV, radio, or loud noises. Providing them with a ‘safe place’ where they feel free to open up and further discuss any topics that might arise can offer a sense of ease when the subject is sensitive. It is also essential to ensure the senior is comfortable and ready to have a conversation, especially when it isn’t a topic they are used to discussing. Gauge their emotions and nerves. If the senior appears anxious, tense, or unwell, it might be best to wait until they are emotionally ready to have the conversation.

Be respectful and empathetic: While the topic needs addressing, it is crucial to ensure you listen and hear what the family and senior have to say in response. Show respect and empathy for these individuals by acknowledging their feelings, concerns, and options. It is essential to remember that tough discussion topics will naturally come with questions or debates. Avoid using judgmental language or tone, and listen actively to what they say. No one enjoys being talked down to or at, no matter the topic or age of the individual. Make sure you address these tough topics as an open discussion where their voices are heard rather than a topic where a decision is previously made. 

Use clear and simple language: While we might have additional information on these topics and why they need addressing with the seniors or families, make sure to use clear and straightforward language that is easy to understand. The topics must be digestible for each individual. Avoid using medical or technical jargon that might confuse or scare the senior. Make sure that each subject is understandable and easy to discuss, no matter the intellectual level of the individuals. Also, ensure you are not adjusting your tone or language based on a specific diagnosis. Certain health topics require addressing, but we must keep our language, communication speed, and discussion the same based on their condition. Ensuring we address each individual the same way can ensure the senior feels they are being treated fairly and equally based on the information provided. 

Be prepared: Before the conversation, ensure you are well prepared by researching the topic and diagnosis. Seniors and their loved ones will have questions based on the individual topics. Ensure you have the criteria and resources to answer each of their questions openly and intellectually. Prepare by gathering relevant information and sources to address any complicated conversations that might arise during these difficult discussions. By anticipating any potential questions or concerns that might arise, you are supporting the seniors and their families more when they go home to discuss the topics on their own further. 

Offer options and support: While you might not be on this journey the entire time, it is important to offer other options, such as resources or counseling, to help these individuals make informed decisions and cope with any emotional or practical challenges that may arise. Certain diagnoses will need further explanation or resources. Coming to the conversation with additional information, doctor options, or living options can take the stress off each individual when further looking into these options. 

Challenging conversations with seniors and their loved ones can be difficult to navigate. By addressing the topics with empathy, respect, and preparation, you can approach these conversations sensitively and help the seniors and their loved ones make informed decisions while respecting their dignity and autonomy. 

Want to know more about taboo and difficult topics? Join us on April 11 at 2 pm EST for a free CEU event!