How to Communicate with an Aging Loved One About Their Care

Is your aging loved one at the point where they need additional care? If you are (or will be) their primary caregiver, you need to know how to effectively communicate with them about certain difficult subjects about the future. One of these subjects is how they would like to be cared for as they age. For the caregiver this can sometimes be a frustrating and painful conversation to have, especially if your loved one is resistant or unwilling to accept or face reality. Below are some best practices to help you get through these important discussions with your loved one.

How to Connect, Listen, and Communicate with a Loved One About Their Care

Keep the following in mind when communicating with a loved one about their care:

  1. Know why you are having the conversation in the first place. Before getting started, determine why you are meeting and what you are going to discuss. Is this what you want or what they need? These simple questions can often times create conflict if not immediately addressed.
  2. Be a good listener and remember that this is a difficult subject. This is the time when you need to be quiet and listen to find out what matters to your loved one. By listening, you are letting your loved one know that you care about their feelings and taking the opportunity to learn more.
  3. Engage using both emotion and logic. This is an emotional and difficult topic. Your loved one may be scared, angry, confused, or in denial, preventing them from accepting the truth. Before starting the conversation, ask yourself, “how would I advise my friend in this same situation?” This is a helpful technique to put you in the right frame of mind. Find the right emotional connection when talking with your loved one. If they are scared, start by telling them you love them and describe clearly what is needed for their health.
  4. Be ready for anything. The conversation may get off course for any number of reasons so be prepared for that. Use your best judgment while you’re in the situation and if things get too emotional consider pausing and trying again another day.
  5. Have patience and perseverance. Having a conversation and making decisions about how one wants to be taken care of as they age can be physically and emotional taxing, so be patient and take your time. This one discussion will likely evolve into multiple discussions until a decision is reached.

Remember that you are not the first and, unfortunately, will not be the last person to have this type of conversation. Use the suggested tips above to ensure that you’re fully prepared and communicate effectively.