by Joy Loverde
You've probably heard the expression, "timing is everything." That statement is especially true when it comes to talking to aging parents and elderly loved ones about sensitive subjects. A well-timed conversation enhances the likelihood of being heard and reaching consensus. Otherwise, trying to open a dialogue at a time and place that is not conducive could render it difficult if not impossible to accomplish your objective.
Think about a past situation when an important eldercare conversation, which you initiated, went haywire. Perhaps Mom was distracted and didn't respond to your question, or Dad postponed the conversation telling you that he was too tired to talk. And who hasn't experienced a scenario when another family members disrupts your conversation -- purposely or otherwise — and shows no respect and little concern for the discussion in progress between you and your parents?
When the timing of important conversations is not right, you sense it. Nothing you say is well received and none of your suggestions are readily accepted. If this happening more and more and you find that you’re blaming your parents for not listening or being responsive, perhaps a “timing” check might be in order.
Arrange the ideal place to talk.
First, decide whether to conduct your conversation in person or over the phone. These days, with family members living far apart, it's tempting to talk about important eldercare issues via the wires. But before you dial that number be aware that reading facial expressions and body language plays an important part in knowing when to change communication tactics or to back off altogether.
For example, how will you know if your parent is nervous or uncomfortable — frowning, tapping a foot, or looking at the clock — or know whether your parent seems relaxed — smiling and looking you in the eyes? Reading body language will help. Physically being there allows you to acknowledge your parent in various ways such as moving your body forward (or away), touching, nodding your head, and making eye contact.
If you choose to talk face-to-face, think ahead as to where to have the conversation. Pick a quiet place where your parent can clearly hear what you are saying and a location that is free from distractions. As a rule, holiday family parties are not an ideal time to discuss eldercare issues. Such gatherings tend to revive historical relationship patterns; and other family members who are present may purposely sabotage your efforts.
A restaurant setting also has its limitations. Uninterrupted conversations are practically impossible in such a location, and parents can easily feel as though they are on the hot seat with nowhere to run. Setting aside time to talk doesn't mean that you have to hold a formal meeting. Sometimes the best discussions take place while you're driving the car or puttering around the kitchen.