Talking to your loved one about their changing abilities can be a very challenging conversation. You might feel like there’s never a right time to bring up the topic, or worry about hurting their feelings. However, while these conversations are important to have, they don’t have to be difficult. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for this discussion:
Talk to them early
Life can be so unpredictable, especially when it comes to changes in our health. Don’t wait until an emergency happens to have important conversations with your loved one about next steps. Talk to them ahead of time so it will be easier to make decisions on their behalf during these critical moments. If your loved one already has a care plan that was not made recently, look over it with them again to make sure no changes need to be made.
Be careful not to overwhelm your loved one with all of your concerns. This can actually lead to more pushback from them as they may start to feel pressured to make immediate decisions or as if you are trying to take over their life. Keep in mind that everything doesn’t have to be discussed at once. Address one thing at a time starting with the topics that are least likely to trigger their emotions. Such topics can include health care wishes, financial information, wills and trusts, emergency contacts, medical information, and insurance policies.
Offer realistic solutions
Before bringing up concerns to your loved one about their health, research support and care options for those issues. For example, if they have a disability that is affecting their lifestyle, suggest some devices or home modifications that can help them. If you think it would be safer for them to stop driving, share other transportation options. Even if your loved one doesn’t like your suggestions, talking to them about their options will show them that you are trying to help them maintain their independence rather than take it over.
Approaching the person you’re caring for with understanding and love will help them not feel confronted or pressured during your discussion. If your conversation doesn’t go as you hoped, be careful to not get frustrated or upset. The person you are caring for may not agree with everything you suggest, and that is okay. The goal is to make them feel loved and supported while letting them know your honest concerns. Asking their opinion and listening with an open mind is another way to make sure the person you’re caring for feels heard and understood.