Collin SENIOR Magazine
By: Susan Rogers, MSG – Prestonwood Rehab and Denton Rehab
A friend recently confided in me that she was concerned about her mother’s driving. Julie noticed a dent on the back bumper and realized that her mother had stopped driving at night. She was uncomfortable talking with her mother about this because it seemed like such a role reversal. After we discussed some strategies, Julie finally approached her mother with her concerns. With an eye exam, and a new pair of glasses, Julie’s mother is now driving safely once again. She told me that the best part about this situation is that now that she’s had one challenging conversation with her mother, she feels a lot more comfortable talking with her about other issues.
It is natural to feel a little uncomfortable talking with a spouse, parent or other loved one about personal issues such as money management, memory lapses, health, personal safety and end of life decisions. If approached properly, however, these conversations can lead to deeper, more fulfilling relationships.
Seize the Moment
Take advantage of stories in the news or experiences of friends and neighbors to start conversations about touchy subjects. If your father’s neighbor is recovering in a skilled nursing facility after a fall, go with dad to visit and talk about his preferences should he need physical therapy. If you see a news article about scams targeting seniors, print it out and share it with him.
Set the Tone
The most successful conversations take place in an atmosphere of love and respect. Start the conversation at their home or somewhere they feel comfortable. Keep the conversation casual by chatting while making dinner or driving in the car. You may remark “Mom, I don’t know how you keep track of all these medications. I would need to create a spread sheet on the computer to keep it all straight!” Using humor can often diffuse a tense situation.
Stick to the Facts
If your mother looses her keys one time, you can not assume that she has Alzheimer’s disease. Observe the situation over time, making note of specific concerns. When you speak with your loved one you may say something like “When I brought in your mail I noticed one of your bills said Final Notice, and you have a utility bill on your desk with a late fee. What can I do to help?” Her response will help you determine whether she is having memory problems, financial problems, or if she just ran out of stamps.
It is best to have some solutions in mind before you begin a conversation. If your father has been falling a lot you may say, “Dad, I’m worried that your next fall may be more serious, so I’ve been looking into ways to help you stay independent. If the time comes when you need more help, would you prefer to hire someone to come into your home, would you want to move to an apartment where there is help available on-site or do you have another plan?”
It’s never too early to start planning for the future. Often, it is easier to begin these conversations before there is a crisis. Your parent or loved one may be hesitant to discuss the situation right away, but by bringing it up, you open the door to future conversations. It’s also important to think about how you would want these issues to be handled for yourself. You may begin by saying “Mom, I’ve been concerned about what might happen to me if I could no longer make healthcare decisions for myself, so I’m going to designate a Power of Attorney and I’m filling out a Living Will. Why don’t you work on one too?”
If you are concerned about your parent, spouse or loved one, and need more advice before you talk with them, please feel free to contact me at 214-731-5980. I am also available to speak to clubs, Sunday school classes or other groups who may benefit from this type of information.