There are some conversations which we often face with dread. One of them can be the conversation with aged parents who are reaching the stage where they would benefit from receiving age-appropriate care. One of the problems with these challenging conversations is that they can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. If children don’t really want to discuss the matter, then this will generally come across in their voice and/or body language (even if they try to hide it) and parents, of all people, are likely to be sensitive to this and react to it. There is, however, one guiding principle which can help to mitigate the stress this conversation can cause for both parties.
Remember the positive intention.
You are having this conversation because you love your parents and want what’s best for them. Keep that thought in the forefront of your mind and let it guide you.
There is a reason you’ve decided that now is the time to have this conversation. Be specific and think carefully about what they mean in the short-, medium- and long term. For example, if you’ve noticed that your parents are starting to struggle with certain household tasks, then in the short term it might be sufficient to equip them with better household appliance and a cleaner for certain tasks, but with a view to transitioning to aged care is it becomes appropriate to do so. Being able to articulate specific concerns is usually a better basis for a discussion than a generic “I’m worried about you”.
Engage in a dialogue
A conversation involves two or more people. One person talking is a lecture. Your parents have a point of view too and, even if you disagree, you have to respect it. Part of the challenge of managing these conversations is the fact that you will always be your parents’ child, even if you know have adult children of your own. These conversations can be interpreted as a signal of changing roles, which may make your parents uncomfortable, particularly if they’re the kind of people who’ve always valued their own independence and their ability to look after others. Ask lots of questions about what they want and what solutions they see and be prepared to act on them, at least over the short- to medium-term.
While we’ve talked about “the conversation” actually, the reality may well be a series of conversations over an extended period. Think of a game of golf. Occasionally a golfer may get a hole in one, but generally it takes several shots before the ball finally rolls where it needs to be. Suddenly telling your parents that you think they really should accepted aged care right now could be quite a shock to them. Easing the topic into conversation one step at a time is a softer and more subtle approach and gives them time to digest the idea and come to appreciate the benefits it could offer both them and you. In fact, they may even come to the same conclusion as you all by themselves.
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