Having Conversations about Ageing – What Helps, What Doesn’tJuly 25, 2018
We all love our parents dearly and want the best for them, just as they wanted the best for us when we were younger. But sometimes, life requires us make tough calls. Aging is a natural part of life, but it is often one of the most difficult to come to terms with.
As our parents get older, their needs change. For some senior loved ones, the change comes gradually. For others, the change comes more drastically, in the case of an accident or deteriorating health conditions.
As our senior loved ones get older, the responsibilities that lie on us become greater. This often happens at a time when most caregivers are getting ready to start their own families and completely lack the emotional and physical capacity to make sure they are getting the care and attention they require. This often leaves caregivers feeling extremely guilty and exhausted.
There is, however, good news: It doesn’t have to be this way. Many caregivers found that having conversations with their aging parents earlier on can help them prepare for the way they grow old. This essentially means that if and when things change, you will already have a plan that can make things easier for both, elderly loved ones and their caregivers.
Here are a few things you can do that will help you have the conversation.
Choosing the Time And Place Carefully
Conversations about aging are often difficult and emotional. These conversations are therefore best to be had in a relaxed and noise-free sitting place where you and your parents can talk without interruptions. It is important to encourage them to talk about how they are managing. Most elderly loved ones may feel embarrassed or uneasy talking about their changing needs. For this reason, it’s always helpful to not have these conversations around other people, such as your children or other siblings.
What is helpful is casually arranging for a quiet time to have a cup of tea at their home or at a park where you can both calmly talk and collectively reflect about the present and future. Another helpful tip to initiate the conversation is to have this conversation with a notice as senior loved ones may get defensive and the conversation might prove to be counterproductive.
Using a Friend or Family Member’s Example to Start the Conversation
One of the most effective ways to start a conversation about aging is by referring to a friend or a family member’s experience and relating it to your situation.
For example, “When Jim’s mother fell ill and the doctor spoke about treatment options, it really got me thinking about how important it is to have these conversations ahead of time.”
Often, senior loved ones will be able to understand the importance of having the conversation about aging more when you approach the topic as a conversation that you need to have for your own peace of mind.
Ask Them What They Think Successful Aging Looks Like
The vision of caregivers and elderly loved ones of what successful aging looks like can be very different from each other.
You might feel that an assisted or independent living facility is a more suitable option for your parents, whereas they might just prefer living in their own home. Therefore, it is important to include in the conversation what they think the course of action should be in the short run, the long run and in case of an unprecedented event such as an accident.
When they share their expectations with you, listen intently, even if you disagree. Avoid using negative language and ask them open ended questions while trying to keep a neutral stance. Understanding their perspective will help you both come closer to a feasible solution that works well for both the parties, in physical, emotional and financial aspects.
Acknowledge Their Feelings about the Next Stage
Elderly loved ones are often afraid of change and have difficulty adapting to things as there is nothing worse than feeling like you are losing control of your own life. Let your loved ones know that you absolutely understand their opinions and acknowledge their feelings.
It is important for your senior loved one to understand that while they may not be able to make all their decisions themselves anymore, they are still consulted about changes in their life.
At the same time, you, as a caregiver, also need to be vocal and honest about how your senior loved one’s vision for the future may impact your family. They might think moving into your home as they age is a feasible solution but in reality, it might put your family under emotional pressure. If the move is not what is best for you and your family then it is better to have a conversation about a Plan B.
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