I was eavesdropping on a conversation the other day. Two women were discussing how one of them was trying to convince her dad to move from the home he’s been in for decades to an independent living community. I eavesdropped because I was already working on this blog post, after recently sharing an article, Parenting Your Aging Parents When They Don’t Want Help, on this topic on LinkedIn, and was interested in how she navigated the conversation.
The article generated a lot of conversation, both on- and off-line. While I’m not a fan of the use of the word “parenting” in the title (I doubt aging parents want to feel like they’re being parented by their kids!), I think the article is filled with important, spot-on advice for having difficult conversations. I encourage you to read the entire article if you’re facing a situation where you need to talk about a challenging topic. Difficult conversations with your parents include wanting them to move out of their home, hire a caregiver, discuss their end-of-life wishes, share their financial situation, and more. (Note: this post assumes that your parent has the capacity to make their own decisions.)
The woman I referred to above (and who gave me permission to use her story in this blog) shared that one of her dad’s arguments for wanting to stay in the house was because he had so many wonderful memories there. He thought he would lose the memories, the feelings that go with the memories, if he moved. She responded by telling him that she completely understands that feeling. However, she pointed out that she hadn’t lived in that house since college but still holds on to all the memories from her childhood there. That was a great response. She acknowledged the validity of his concern, shared that she truly understands the issue, and let him know that the memories stay with us wherever we go. Her dad was then willing to continue the conversation.
Some thoughts on having difficult conversations with aging parents:
What happens if they don’t agree to get a caregiver or move or get a medical alert system or whatever you are hoping they will do… and then they, for example, fall and break a bone. This may cause you a lot of stress and missed work days and more - but remember, it’s not your fault. You don’t need to feel guilty (although I realize that’s easier said than done). The silver lining is that they may become much more open to listening to you!
Bottom Line: Take the time to plan for and start having these difficult conversations before there is a crisis. You’ll be glad you did.