When it comes to being a family caregiver and you’re making your best attempt on a moment-to-moment basis to assist aging parents and elderly loved ones, it may feel like you are always on the brink of flat out demanding that they do things your way. I understand because I’m in the same situation. It’s only natural to want to prevent something bad from happening to those we love.
But hold on. Whose life is it anyway? It doesn’t matter if what you have to say is “the truth.” It doesn’t matter if you are “right.” It doesn’t matter that you are the voice of reason if they would only listen to you. Imposing your will, offering unsolicited advice, doing too much, forcing your values, and coming across as experts on his or her life will only result in your being perceived as manipulative and overbearing, rather than loving and caring.
So let’s take unsafe eldercare situations out of the equation here – like compromised elderly drivers and people staying in their homes when safety has long been compromised. I’m talking about the little things in our daily lives as family caregivers. Think about a situation right now where you are insisting on having it your way. Your stomach is tied up in knots, and the air is thick with anger – on both sides.
If the situation is serious, and your elders are close-minded about anything you have to say, and you want to get the relationship and conversations back on track, brush up on your communication skills by reviewing the Take a Deep Breath and Jump In section in my book, The Complete Eldercare Planner.
In the meantime, here’s a quick assessment of your current communication style and approach. Ask yourself these questions:
Am I trying to do for my elder what he or she can do for himself or herself?
Am I being sensitive to his or her issues of loss?
Am I struggling with my own issues of loss?
Am I keeping his or her autonomy in mind in solving this problem?
Am I making assumptions about what I think he or she needs?
Am I really listening?
Am I being open-minded?
Am I driving the conversation by asking questions rather than giving unsolicited advice?
Do I know enough about this subject to offer an opinion?
Am I empowering my elder to solve his or her own problems?
Am I communicating caring?