It can be difficult to have conversations about our health at any age. As we grow older and begin to explore retirement living options, we may lose the ability to do things that we used to do, causing us to feel confused, angry, or embarrassed. If you are in the position where you need to have a health conversation with your parents or other aging loved one, it’s important to understand that this may also be a tough discussion for them, too. As you prepare to have this conversation, try taking these steps:
Find the Right Time and Place
Bringing up a health conversation with your loved one in the grocery line is obviously not the best time. But you should also avoid discussing a loved one’s health while you are arguing about something else, or while the two of you are at odds. Wait until you are both comfortable and in good spirits. Have a warm drink together at the family table or wait until after the two of you have participated in a fun activity like an outing at the park or completing a puzzle or crossword. It’s vital that you make it clear that your concern comes from a place of love.
Listen Twice as Much as You Speak
The old adage about how wisdom can be gained by listening twice as much as we speak also holds up in this situation. Try and understand your loved one’s fears and concerns about their health and their retirement living options. If they are averse to discussing it and insist nothing is wrong, gently ask them about a recent health scare and how it made them feel. Are they confident they can get up the stairs unaided? Was there a recent fall? What is their strategy for dealing with a situation like this again? Ask them how they would like you to help, and then offer some suggestions, too.
Assess Physical and Mental Health
Another reason to find a comfortable time and place and to listen more than you speak is so that you can more accurately assess your loved one’s physical and mental health. Do they suffer from weight loss or poor appetite? Are they complaining about pain or other worrying symptoms? What health concerns are they choosing to share with you? Ask about their mood. Have they been going through a long period of sadness? Have they experienced memory problems recently? All of these could be red flags for deeper issues that should be explored with their primary care doctor.
What if Your Loved One Resists Help?
If you have identified worrying health issues and your loved one is resisting care, remember to take a deep breath and practice empathy. Understand that your needs and theirs may be very different. Seek out a second opinion from friends and family members, such as your siblings or other close relatives. Finding ways to soothe your loved one’s fears and concerns may take a group effort. Keep in mind that there are many ways to manage care today, including home health care and assisted living options. Be sure to explore all of these solutions in depth.