Family Caregiver’s Guide to Tough Conversations with Mom or Dad

Nobody likes to admit they’re getting old, and nobody wants to lose their independence. That’s why it's not unusual to find your loved ones stubbornly clinging to things they have always been able to do - like driving - even when they've become a danger to themselves or others.

When you realize your loved one needs an intervention, it's time to have a tough conversation about how to move forward. But before you talk to your parents about handing over the car keys, buying hearing aids, or any other sensitive topic - keep reading for tips on how to make the conversation as productive and loving as possible.

  • Schedule time:

If you lead with, “we need to talk,” your loved one will be anxious about the conversation. When you set a specific time to sit down and talk, plan it like you would plan any other get together. Also, be mindful of location. A public setting is often not ideal for sensitive conversations. Instead, meet in a place where you both feel comfortable.

  • Be prepared:

Make sure you have a goal in mind and consider making a checklist of what you plan to talk about. This will make the conversation less stressful for you and your loved one. Also, try to think through any potential problems or roadblocks and come up with solutions ahead of time. For example, if you're asking your mom or dad not to drive, consider alternative ways your mom or dad can get around and present those options during your talk.

  • Be respectful:

Remember, you're talking to your parent, and there's a good chance they won't want to admit that they need help. Be careful to pay attention to how the conversation is impacting you and your loved one as well as how it's affecting you. If either of you starts to get overly frustrated or worked up as you're talking, take a break.

  • Consider their input:

Avoid telling your loved one that you know what’s best for them. Doing so implies they don’t know what’s best for themselves and can come across as demeaning. As you talk, do your best to work together with your loved one to come up with a plan that you’re both comfortable with.

  • Keep a united front:

If it makes sense to involve your sibling(s) or other family members, don't hesitate to do so. If they don't live in the area, you can bring them into the conversation using Skype or any other video chat service. Just make sure to hash out your approach and deal with any potential disagreements ahead of time. Also, do your best to work together and be empathetic to make sure your loved one doesn't feel ganged up on.

  • Don’t procrastinate:

When you realize it’s time to make a change, act quickly. It will be uncomfortable, but you're much better off broaching the issue quickly. By doing so, you can avoid finding yourself in a situation where you wished you had acted sooner.

The key to success is to be sympathetic but firm, try to come up with solutions that help your parent maintain as much independence as possible, and treat them the way you'd like to be treated in their situation.

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