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Top Tips to Help Aging & Ailing Family Members- October 2012
October 17, 2012

Please Say Yes!!

I know what it’s like to steel yourself for a difficult conversation with an aging or ailing relative and then not get the results you want. It’s frustrating, disappointing and sometimes frightening especially if you feel that your family member is not safe.

Sometimes even though we have prepared and thought a lot about the conversation it doesn’t go as planned. While you planned to remain calm, you became angry or emotional, while you planned out what to say, you got sidetracked and lost your focus.

Even when conversations go well and you believe that an agreement has been reached your family member may surprise you by changing his mind afterwards.

Here are some ideas about how to have more successful conversations:

Set your own and your family member’s expectations that serious subjects may take multiple conversations. When discussing subjects as important as future plans during an illness, changes to living arrangement or potential medical treatments, it may take many conversations to reach a complete understanding of each other’s points of view and reach a decision.

Be an active listener. Too many of us use the time we are supposed to be listening to the other person as time to prepare our reply. If it helps you to stay on track, take notes about what your family member is saying. Clarify their comments by asking questions. Listen for the meaning beneath the words and when you can bring the hidden meaning out into the conversation.

Speak from the perspective of expressing your needs. Start sentences with “I”. When we start sentences with “you” it can feel like we are accusing or blaming the person we are talking with.

Establish a trial period when trying new things. Trying out a change out for an agreed upon period of time allows you and your family member to experiment, evaluate what happens and decide on your next action.

Above all, gently and respectfully keep having the conversations on key issues related to your family member’s care. Evaluate what strategies work when speaking with your family member and which pitfalls you want to avoid to have solid conversations that produce change.

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