Tips for Initiating “The Talk”

Having trouble talking to your aging parents about issues that might arise from trying to maintain independence in their Minneapolis home? You’re not alone. Last month, we provided resources that will aid you in having “the talk” such as an interactive guide to find resources that can assist you with aging considerations. But for some, the barrier is just getting the conversation started.home care mn

Biggest obstacle to communicating difficult issues with parents:

31% Continuation of parent/children role
16% Parents refuses to talk
12% Physical issues
10% Child feels unprepared
8% Distance
5% Fear

Last month, we heard from a woman who’s parents had difficulty discussing aging issues with her. It can be just as difficult for the children of seniors to face their parents mortality as it is for the seniors themselves. Whether you’re a child of aging parents in Minneapolis or a senior  yourself and need help getting these important conversations off the ground, visit our Conversations Starters page for more information.HomeInstead_40-70Booklet_Web

Seven Tips to Help Boomer Children Communicate With Their Aging Parents:

Home Instead Senior Care has teamed up with communication expert Jake Harwood, Ph.D., from the University of Arizona, to offer tips to help family caregivers communicate with their aging parents on sensitive subjects.

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. Even if you’re younger than 40, it still may be valuable to initiate a conversation on healthy aging. Watch this humorous video about two young children having “the talk” with their parents.

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.

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.

Maximize the Independence.
Always try to move toward solutions that provide the maximum amount of independence for the older person. Look for answers that optimize strengths and compensate for problems. For instance, if your loved ones need help at home, look for tools that can help them maintain their strengths. Professional caregiving services, such as those offered by Home Instead Senior Care, provide assistance in a number of areas including meal preparation, light housekeeping or medication reminders. Or find friends who can help.

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. The Minneapolis area is full of opportunities for senior activity!

Forget the Baby Talk
Remember how much you disliked being spoken to as a child when you were a teen? Patronizing speech or baby talk will put older adults on the defensive and convey a lack of respect for them. Put yourself in your parents’ shoes and think of how you would want to be addressed in the situation.

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 Senior Care, Minneapolis Area Agencies on Aging and local senior centers can help provide those solutions.

home care mnIdentifying Mom’s Needs Key to Reaching Family Consensus

The signs all point to trouble for Mom. You and your siblings are concerned, but not sure how to proceed, especially because your mother is reluctant to leave her longtime Minnesota home. Leaving home, though, is only one option, and the least popular among older adults, many of whom just need a little help around the house. Read more about the 5 housing options for seniors.

Q. My 75-year-old mother’s house seems to be in a progressively worse state of disarray each time I make my monthly visit. My sister tries to help out a couple of times a week, and Mom has told her that she’s not ready for a care facility yet. Our brother, who lives 800 miles away and seldom visits, thinks we might be overreacting. Our minds are racing — is it time to persuade her to move out or does she just need more help?

There’s no need to panic since it appears that your mother is not in immediate danger. Take a slow and steady approach that involves observation to try to pinpoint the exact nature of your mom’s issues. Make it clear to Mom you want to work together on a solution so that she isn’t fearful that decisions about her fate are being made behind her back.

Then ask yourselves these questions: Is the problem simply that your mother is physically challenged by strenuous housework or is she deteriorating mentally? Does she just need help tidying up around the house or are other aspects of her personal care, such as bathing, going downhill?

Be on the lookout for warning signs that a senior could be in trouble including:

  1. Neglected personal hygiene resulting in wearing dirty clothes, body odor, bad breath, neglected nails and teeth, sores on the skin.
  2. Neglected home that is not as clean or sanitary as you remember growing up. Remember, senior safety starts at home.
  3. Changed relationship patterns such that friends and neighbors have expressed concerns.
  4. Physical problems such as burns or injury marks resulting from general weakness, forgetfulness, or possible misuse of alcohol or prescribed medications.
  5. Changed eating habits within the last year resulting in weight loss, having no appetite or missed meals. Learn the 10 warning signs a senior’s nutrition is in danger.
  6. Decreased or stopped participation in activities that were previously important to them such as bridge or a book club, dining with friends, or attending religious services.
  7. Forgetfulness resulting in unopened mail, piles of newspapers, unfilled prescriptions or missed appointments. This could be the start of Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia.
  8. Mishandled finances such as not paying bills, losing money, paying bills twice or more, or hiding money. Watch this video to learn more about the importance of having “the talk” about finances.
  9. Unusual purchases such as buying more than one magazine subscription of the same magazine, entering a number of contests or excessive purchases from television advertisements.
  10. Inappropriate behavior including being unusually loud or quiet, paranoid, agitated and making phone calls at all hours.

If the problem is physical, then begin the conversation with an offer to have someone come in more often to help with things such as light housekeeping chores and meal preparation.

Good luck with your conversations. Careful observation, communication and a plan of action all will help your family make the best decisions. What’s more, your Home Instead Senior care can serve as a resource by providing a free in-home evaluation.

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