In our previous blog post, we talked about approaching finances and financial changes with aging parents. But there are lots of difficult conversations that we need to have with our parents as they age—how do you actually sit down and have those discussions without anger, misunderstanding, or hurt feelings? Our next three blog posts will be a series that explores the process of preparing for and engaging in difficult conversations, whether they are about money, health, housing, or anything else.

In this post, we will discuss things you can do to prepare for a difficult conversation. In the posts that follow, we will turn to the conversation itself, including responding to your parent and resolving conflict when it arises.

Plan Ahead, and Write it Down

Preparing for a difficult conversation can create a lot of anxiety about what might happen. Ironically, often this results in avoiding the planning process, jumping into a conversation without preparing, and facing conflict and questions that you haven’t thought about. Even though a pre-planned conversation can be stressful, scheduling a time to have a difficult conversation allows everyone involved to think about what is important to them, and not feel like they are under attack when the discussion begins.

After you’ve scheduled your difficult conversation, write down everything you are thinking or worrying about. You’ll probably find that there are lots of overlapping thoughts, many of which are important but not directly relevant to the topic you’re discussing, and getting them on paper can help you to stay focused on the conversation at hand.

Identify Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

While you may have a long term end goal in mind (say, getting your parent to agree to move into an assisted living facility), don’t expect that one conversation will get you to that goal. Consider alternatives or partial moves toward that goal, and think practically about what you would consider a successful end to this first conversation. In some cases, that might simply be identifying shared and individual concerns and moving toward a next step. In other cases, it might be specific actions that will move you toward your end goal.

Consider and prepare for emotional reactions

It’s normal to react emotionally to any sort of life change—and aging parents may have as much difficulty adapting to your role as caregiver as you do. When you are preparing and setting goals, think about your own emotional reactions: how do you expect your parent to react? How might you feel if they reacted differently from what you expect? Also try to think about how your parent might react emotionally—but remember that you might be wrong!

Being prepared for a difficult discussion with notes and goals won’t eliminate emotional reactions or conflicts, but it gives you a resource to turn to during those moments, which can help keep you from overreacting to things that don’t go as expected. In our next post, we will discuss the conversation itself, and how to create a safe space for you and your parent to express your thoughts, feelings, and concerns.
Ready to make more steps toward your parents’ future care? Contact As Life Goes On today for more information on our availability and care.

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