Posts Tagged "Sensitive Conversations"

Secrets of Successful Conversations

Posted by on Dec 11, 2021 in Family Relationships, Sensitive Conversations |

When we wish to talk with our aging parents or our adult children about difficult or sensitive topics, we have two things to manage: the task of the conversation…and the emotions that accompany it. Each party to the conversation has needs which the other can help them meet. Simply being heard is a huge need, but receiving support, understanding, and acceptance are also important.  For each family, the pressing topic(s) will be different. But before you talk about health issues, getting help around the house, downsizing, driving or any other concerns, take some time to prepare and consider your approach: Think about what has contributed to effective conversations in the past, either with family or in other parts of your life. See the conversation as a process, not an event. Address one issue at a time. Set a mini-goal for the conversation, rather than pressing for a major decision after a single discussion. Each family has its own topics of concern but calmly discussing “what if?” scenarios may get better results than pressuring for immediate decisions. Help the other person(s) prepare.  Send a letter, an email, or phone ahead if you think it’s time for a serious talk. Brush up your listening skills, such as watching body language, re-stating what you have heard, and asking open-ended questions.   Whatever topic you choose to discuss, include these ABCD’s in your conversation:   A is for attitudes and assumptions: Why does Mom think staying put is best? Why do you believe she should move closer to you?   B is for boundaries: The adult child can talk about what they can and cannot do for your parents. The older parent can clarify which decisions they want to make for themselves, without well-meaning interference from their grown children.   C is for changes, now and in the future: Talk about changes you’ve noticed, but do it without making a judgment or attaching meaning to them, e.g., “Dad, I notice the fridge isn’t as well stocked as it used to be.” Don’t express opinions or make suggestions at this point.   Once the changes are acknowledged, talk about what those changes might mean to the person experiencing them, e.g., “How is your appetite?” or “How are you managing with the grocery shopping?”     D is for decisions to be made or deferred:  The decision can be to take action on an issue now, or simply to schedule another time and place to keep planning. Wherever possible, ask - don’t tell - and decide on next steps collaboratively. Using this ABCD framework can help you move forward, guided by your family and personal values.    Sensitive conversations can help you know where things stand, what to expect, what needs to be done. They can build relationships, allowing you to express feelings, and learn how others feel. They are the foundation of building strong relationships and solid plans for the future.   For more tips on what to do during the conversation, and what to do when conversations get stuck, consult the Sensitive Conversations section in the ElderWise e-guide, Age-Smart Planning. This e-guide also covers the “top ten” topics you and your family need to address to be proactive and prepared.     (c) ElderWise Inc., 2012   You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Inc. We provide clear, concise and practical direction to Canadians with aging parents…and anyone wishing to do “age-smart” planning. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter.          ...

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Talking to Your Parents’ Doctor

Posted by on Apr 24, 2021 in Family Relationships, Health Care Team and System |

  “Mom has been having dizzy spells and seems to be losing interest in her normal activities. She tells us “everything is fine”, but we’re worried would like to talk to her doctor about our concern. How should we do this?” This is a common dilemma for adult children who are worried about aging parents.  When you see signs that cause concern, it is natural to wonder what is wrong. Often, the elderly parent will be “reassuring” or might try to dismiss your concerns.  But your worries don’t go away easily. You would prefer to be reassured from the doctor. Have you tried calling the doctor, and been told that he/she won’t see you without your parent present?  Maybe the doctor doesn’t return your call?  Here are three things to consider if you want to talk to your parents’ doctor: Doctor-Patient Confidentiality This is the obligation of one person to preserve the secrecy of another’s personal information.  A doctor’s guiding code of ethics requires them to maintain confidentiality.  When physicians are licensed to practice, they take the Oath of Hippocrates and promise: “Whatever, in connection with my professional service, I see or hear, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge” (abridged). Confidentiality stems from the therapeutic relationship between patient and doctor.  Patients want to trust that their personal information will be kept private. They want to be able to speak honestly, without worry that their condition or treatment could be revealed to others without their consent. Right To Privacy Privacy is the right of individuals to be left alone, and to determine when, how, and to what extent they share information about themselves with others.  But you have the right to share your worry and concern with your parent, and ask if you can come to the next doctor’s visit. Explain what you want to do: for example “I want to help you remember the things you wanted to talk about.” Or “I want to ask the doctor about your dizziness.” Suggest that having a family member or friend with them can help your parent get the most out of a visit. Being Your Parent’s Advocate The doctor may appreciate learning more about your parent’s problem from your point of view. If you want to advocate for your parent, consider writing the doctor to express your concerns.  But keep in mind that the doctor may still not be willing to share private information with you.  A word of warning: tell your parent you are writing the letter.  Don’t expect the doctor to keep it a secret! The first steps to opening the lines of communication are to help your parent(s) understand the benefits of this information exchange, and to get their consent. If you do meet with the doctor, or have a telephone conversation, be prepared.  Be specific about your concerns and ask: What is wrong? What do I need to know? What can I do to help my parent? Whether your parent is at home or in hospital, and whether you live in the same city or across the country, establishing a relationship with your parent’s doctor can benefit all parties.  Vol.3, No. 17 © ElderWise Inc. 2007. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Publishing, a division of ElderWise Inc. We provide clear, concise and practical direction to Canadians with aging parents. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter      ...

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Help With Family Visits

Posted by on Dec 16, 2021 in Family Relationships |

Some of us look forward to visiting our aging parents or our adult children - others not so much. We may live nearby, seeing each other often, but some of us make only occasional visits. For occasional visitors, it’s an opportunity see, hear, touch and sense what’s happening with our loved ones. The result can be joy and relief, or it can be growing concern and frustration. Visits can get weighed down with tradition and habits. Some of these are welcome, others leave us feeling that we have not progressed in our relationships or in dealing with matters important to the family. If you feel frustrated, consider these causes and some ways of dealing with them: What keeps some families “stuck”? Denial and avoidance. These traits are part of human nature. Showing compassion towards others AND ourselves can keep emotions in check. Old hurts, entrenched behaviours, and fear of conflict. Recognizing our “family drama” is the first step towards re-writing our story. Overwhelming size or number of concerns. Breaking the problems into manageable parts and setting priorities can help. Feeling powerless. Lack of confidence, skills or support may make you feel like giving in or giving up. What you can do: Inform yourself and others of the facts, issues and options. Whether it’s a health, financial, caregiving or lifestyle concern, sharing new information can be a neutral – even welcome – first step. Prepare others for talking about important matters. Give advance notice of what’s on your mind – to your aging parent or your adult child. Resolve to say or do something different this time. Using the same old approach and expecting different results just sets you up for frustration. Build trust first. Try to show that you understand another person’s values, needs and fears, before advancing your own opinions and agenda. Look for shared solutions that consider everyone’s interests. Taking too strong a position, whether you are the parent or adult child, may affect the well-being of another family member. Set realistic objectives and take small steps. Major life changes are a process, not an event. Quick and simple just doesn’t apply. Close any discussions by trying to get agreement on next steps. Keep things in perspective. Limit the time and energy you devote to your concerns. Relax and enjoy the holiday. Once the visit is over, reflect on and celebrate your progress, no matter how small. Persist, gently and consistently, keeping everyone involved and engaged in the process.   Vol. 6, No. 12, © ElderWise 2010 You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter.  ...

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Aging Parents and Sibling Rivalry

Posted by on Sep 7, 2021 in Family Relationships |

When an aging parent is thrown into a crisis, siblings have the chance torally around each other and use their strengths to cope with the crisis in a way that serves everyone’s best interests. But old rivalry, competition and established role relationships and scripts can heighten conflict and crisis. How can brothers and sisters put aside these patterns when they are forced together to help their aging parents?  First, recognize and accept differences. You and your siblings do not necessarily share values, beliefs, and experiences; in fact, you may come from different generations! If you are an “early boomer” born between 1946 -1950, you are close to retirement and likely addressing some of your own aging issues. If your youngest sibling was born 15 years later in the early 60’s, you two may not have much in common. This “late boomer” is still involved in work and career and raising children. Next, respect the differences. This is easier said than done, but necessary for working together for a common family goal. This process requires internal work - to abandon judgment and criticism of someone whose views are different from yours. Then, really listen. Possibly the most important communication skill is to become an “active listener.” It takes work, but listening to others can help you to find common ground.  Here are five tips on being a better listene  Listen at least as much as you talk. Ideally, listen more than you speak. Try to understand (if not agree with) the other’s point of view.o  Ask for clarification if you do not understand o  Give positive -  or at least neutral - feedback on their ideas Suspend judgment and assumptions while listening. Listen for the feelings that lie beneath the words. Avoid the temptation to become sarcastic or critical. Active listening requires intention as well as attention! Each person must truly want what’s best for everyone, not just to advance his or her own agenda.  Involving an impartial outside party, such as a trusted family friend, advisor, or counsellor, can help interrupt these patterns. The presence of an impartial third party in the room is often enough, in itself, to change the tone of family conversations. A skilled third party can also be helpful in framing or re-framing the issues, monitoring for good listening skills, and helping all family members discover and remove the blocks to effective conversations.   Vol. 5, No. 4 © ElderWise Publishing 2009. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE...

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Holiday Visits with Aging Parents

Posted by on Sep 7, 2021 in Family Relationships, Power of Attorney, Sensitive Conversations |

Holiday visits with aging parents can mean travel across town, across the country or out of the country. Sometimes, aging parents are well enough to visit us; more often, we are seeing them in their daily surroundings. These visits are great opportunities to plan together for the future, and to make note of your concerns about an aging parent’s well-being. In-person visits can also be the best times for a relaxed chat on important subjects … if conversations are approached with calm, care and respect. Here’s what to keep in mind as you prepare: 1. What are the topic(s)you want to talk about? What would you like the result of the first/next conversation to be? Don’t expect to be able to tackle several big topics or come to big decisions quickly. Think of it as a journey, with several small steps and milestones along the way. 2. Begin by talking about something you may have noticed. Gently express concern by talking about something concrete. For example, Mom’s weight loss and a look at the contents of the refrigerator can lead to discussing her overall health - or just getting help with cooking meals. 3. Relate an experience someone else has had. Sharing a friend’s distressing experience with their parent’s estate can help turn the focus to wills, powers of attorney and estate planning. You could say what you are doing as a result, then ask your parents about their situation. 4. Think about the way your family typically talks with each other. If you approach discussion the way you have in the past, you will likely get a similar result. 5. Be aware of established roles and relationships. How will this affect the chances of you really listening to others, or being listened to? 6. Expect to find yourself on an emotional rollercoaster. Seeing changes in an aging parent’s situation can be upsetting. 7. Consider getting help with difficult conversations. A trusted family friend, another respected relative, family advisors, or an ElderWise coach can bring a more rational, objective view to an emotional situation. 8. Think of the holiday conversation as a foundation for further discussion and action. The key is to start the process in an unpressured way. Give everyone time to think and reflect on important matters. Preparation, patience and respect go a long way to insuring holiday visits with aging parents will be pleasant as well as proactive. Vol. 4, No. 15 © ElderWise Publishing 2008-12. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’ go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE...

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