Home Instead® and communication expert Jake Harwood, Ph.D. from the University of Arizona, offers tips to help family caregivers communicate with their aging parents on sensitive subjects.
1. Get Started
If you're 40 or your parents are 70, it's time to start observing and gathering information carefully and thoughtfully. Don't reach a conclusion from a single observation and decide on the best solution until you have gathered information with an open mind and talked with your parents.
2. Talk it Out
Approach your parents with a conversation. Discuss what you've observed and ask your parents what they think is going on. If your parents acknowledge the situation, ask what they think would be good solutions. If your parents don't recognize a problem, use concrete examples to support your case.
3. Sooner is Best
Talk sooner rather than later when a crisis has occurred. If you know your loved one has poor eyesight or has trouble driving at night, begin to address those issues before a problem arises.
4. Forget the Baby Talk
Remember you are talking to an adult, not a child. Patronizing speech or baby talk will put older adults on the defensive and convey a lack of respect for them.
5. Maximize Independence
Always try to move toward solutions that provide the maximum amount of independence for the older person. For instance, if your loved ones need help at home, look for tools that can help them maintain their strengths. Professional caregiving services provide assistance in a number of areas including personal care services, hospice support, companionship, transportation, and meal prep and home helper services.
6. Be Aware of the Whole Situation
If your dad dies and soon afterward your mom's house seems to be in disarray, it's probably not because she suddenly became ill. It's much more likely to stem from a lack of social support and the loss of a life-long relationship. Make sure that your mom has friends and a social life.
7. Ask for Help
Many of the issues of aging can be solved by providing parents with the support they need to continue to maintain their independence. Resources such as Home Instead, Area Agencies on Aging and local aging adult centers can help provide those solutions.