Having Tough Conversations By Becky Cholewka, Esq.

Many families will gather together during the holidays. When coffee and dessert is being served may be a perfect opportunity to bring up a tough conversation such as:

  • Does dad need to stop driving?
  • Does mom need to have her memory tested?
  • Is it time to consider assisted living or nursing home options?

Understandably many individuals and families have difficulty talking about these sensitive subjects. People don’t want to lose their independence, are afraid of facing a decline in their health, and sometimes feel that they are being backed into a corner.

Here are a few tips to ensure you have a successful conversation.

  1. Be proactive. We think more clearly when we are planning instead of in crisis mode.
  2. Have the conversation with yourself. How would you like it handled if you were in this situation?
  3. Make yourself vulnerable. Share a story you heard, relate how it brought about this conversation. Make it about you.
  4. Recognize the importance of their wishes and dignity. The goal of the conversation should not be to limit what people can do, but to maximize their independence. (Maybe dad is OK driving during the day but shouldn’t drive at night.)
  5. Tackle current worries and identify potential threats. Mom may not want to move because she is afraid she cannot take her beloved cat with her.
  6. Outline parameters that can keep someone in their home for as long as possible if that is their wish. Their safety should always be of highest priority.
  7. Choice is power! When people have choices, they feel more in control.
  8. Never threaten or scare.
  9. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
  10. A positive and loving attitude makes all the difference.

Remind dad he enrolled you in the Boy Scouts so you would learn to “Be Prepared.” Remind your mom that she taught you to always have a Plan B and now “we need to make one.” You may even want to “practice” this conversation with other willing family members.

The goal is to come up with a plan that is safe for your loved ones, maximizes their independence, and gives your family a proactive road map to follow. You won’t likely have this plan completed by the time the last piece of pumpkin pie is served, but you have to start somewhere. Sooner is always better than later.

If your family needs additional resources in caring for an aging parent, please contact our office for trusted referrals.

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