Talking With Elderly Parents


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Delivering unpleasant news is never pleasant, and especially if you’re talking with someone whom you love and care for…like your parents. Plus, it’s awkward because the roles are reversed and you find yourself “being the parent".

  1. Spend some time preparing for your talk with parents about changes that have become necessary…the fact that it is no longer safe for them to drive, the necessity of help in managing their finances, an impending move to either an assisted living facility or a nursing home. Think through the question, “What will this mean to them? What will they perceive that they are losing?" For instance, when you are preparing to assist in a move to an assisted living facility or a nursing home, anticipate the resistance that will come from their belief that they are losing such things as independence, contact with familiar surroundings, contact with family members.

  2. Plan to retain or replace as many of the material things or emotional losses as possible. For instance, explore ways to give as much independence as possible. In cases of physical moves, surround them with family pictures, treasured items, their own furniture when possible.

  3. In your initial conversations, help them understand the purpose of the changes you are proposing. Give factual examples of incidents that indicate changes are needed. For example, “When you were driving to the grocery store Monday, I watched as you pulled out into the street in front of a car. The car swerved and, thankfully, you did not wreck. I’ve observed this kind of thing several times. "

  4. Preserve dignity and self esteem as much as possible. Point out the things they can do. Normalize the fact that response times for everyone get slower as the years creep by. Recount the many times when you were growing up that your parents gave you extra help when you needed it, and affirm that they have well earned a little extra assistance from you.

  5. Meet objections calmly, verbally “reflecting" the feelings they are expressing. You might say something like, “I realize that it will be hard to have me balancing your checkbook and paying your bills. You’ve always done that, and have taken pride in doing it well. I can understand how you might feel angry about my saying that you need some assistance with that. "

  6. Don’t expect their immediate buy-in to the change. This takes time, and much of the adjustment to the change comes after it is made. Sometimes, when you’ve determined the change is necessary and you’ve tried over time to compassionately introduce the change to them, you have to “just do it".

  7. Give yourself compassion, too. Expect a myriad of emotions…such as guilt, grief, or anger. These are normal. When you’ve tried to do the right thing, when you’ve worked at being caring as you share unwelcome news with your parents… be kind to yourself. Realize that sometimes, in order to be loving and do what is best for those you love, you must do tough things. Encourage yourself as you would a friend… “You’re doing the best you can do, under the circumstances. "

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist who has worked with organizations across the globe for over 20 years. Her high-energy, high-content, high-involvement Magnetic Workplaces (r) programs provide dozens of practical strategies and skills that can be put to work immediately to:

  1. build strong leaders who influence and develop others through serving;

  2. energize, motivate, and retain team members;

  3. successfully accomplish important organizational transitions; and

  4. impress customers and build their loyalty.

Review a complete list of her programs available for your convention or corporate meeting at the website, .

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