As an associate speaker for Jenerations Health and a practicing Care Manager, I provide education & resources on addressing concerns and questions for professionals and family caregivers. There is no cookie cutter answer when working with humans, but I strive to provide realistic solutions and resources while meeting people where they are in their journeys. Often, the hardest challenge is having those important, but difficult conversations—finances, downsizing, mental health, just to name a few.
Over the last few years, I have been faced with needing to have some of these very conversations! With an aging parent that lived 2+ hours away from me and my sister, the need to discuss next steps was becoming evident. My mother is fiercely independent, so having discussions about downsizing, relocating, among other topics was no easy feat. We were finally able to find our way of approaching that helped all of us. Here are some tips that can help with some of these difficult, sometimes, uncomfortable conversations.
- “Getting to” vs. “Having to” have the conversation. Do not be afraid to introduce this phrase. We found it extremely helpful to embrace the opportunity of getting to be proactive vs. reactive. Remember- being uncomfortable for a few minutes while initiating is going to help in the long run. Remind your loved one that being proactive gives them control and helps to identify what quality of life means to them. This concept was a game changer for us.
- Manage Expectations. What does this mean? We wanted my mom closer to me and my sister, but we understood she had a community and support system where she lived. We assured her that our main concern was that she be safe and downsize from our childhood home. If that meant she stayed in New Jersey so she could continue to have her village of support, then so be it–we would adjust. Remember that your loved one is an adult and if they do not have cognitive deficits, their wishes need to be respected. However, having open and honest conversations can allow you to share any concerns about the impact of those decisions. (P.S.–she moved to Maryland!).
- Consistency & achievable goals: Set small and realistic ones. Any of these BTIs (Big Ticket Items) can be daunting to approach. While we had hoped for a quicker timeline, Covid 19 came along… be flexible about what can be done and how to get it done. Listen to ideas and offer support and suggestions but refrain from directing and insisting. Ask how you can support your loved one. Check in with them to see how they are managing throughout the process and let them know you are there to provide help. Remember they are adults and deserve respect.
Make no mistake, I know firsthand how challenging these conversations can be! Be patient and kind to yourself and your loved one as you navigate these waters. I find myself often reminded of the following quote: “We are all in the same storm, but different boats.” Our goal is to figure out how our boat functions best in the storm.