Part One in my “When the Time is Right” outlines the importance of using timing to your advantage 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.
Instead of having the door of communication shut closed, here are a few ways to plan for better results. There are many more suggestions in my book, The Complete Eldercare Planner (2009, Random House) by Joy Loverde.
If you decide that the time is right to have an eldercare conversation that is potentially explosive emotionally, before anything else, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I over-tired or stressed out right now? (The more relaxed you are the better. If you're particularly on edge, postpone the discussion and get a good night's sleep.)
- Is Mom or Dad a morning person or a night owl? (Initiate conversations when they are at their peak performance.)
- Is it better to separate my parents or approach them together? (If you are closer to your Mom (or Dad), this may be a smart first step.)
- Do I have enough information on this subject to discuss it intelligently, or do I need to do more homework? (The idea here is to be able to add depth to the conversation.)
- Do I have sufficient time now to get involved in a long and possibly serious discussion? (Clearing your schedule takes the pressure off you to "rush" the conversation which in turn creates a more stressful communication environment.)
And here’s one last tip. Keep in mind how long it has been since you last brought up the subject that you are wanting to discuss. A common mistake family members make with respect to initiating eldercare conversations is not giving parents time to analyze the issues raised in the previous discussion.
Of course we're eager to solve problems; but our parents often need additional time to process conversations. Going too fast too soon can lead to misunderstandings, or a feeling that they are being bombarded.