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40-70 Communication Tips

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Seven Tips to Help Boomer Children Communicate With Their Aging Parents:

Many adult children of aging adults know how difficult it can be to talk with their parents about certain topics. Following, from Home Instead and communication expert Jake Harwood, Ph.D., from the University of Arizona, are tips to help family caregivers communicate with their aging parents on sensitive subjects.

  1. Get Started.
    If you're 40 or your parents are 70, it's time to start observing and gathering information carefully and thoughtfully. Don't reach a conclusion from a single observation and decide on the best solution until you have gathered information with an open mind and talked with your parents.
  2. Talk it out.
    Approach your parents with a conversation. Discuss what you've observed and ask your parents what they think is going on. If your parents acknowledge the situation, ask what they think would be good solutions. If your parents don't recognize a problem, use concrete examples to support your case.
  3. Sooner is best.
    Talk sooner rather than later when a crisis has occurred. If you know your loved one has poor eyesight or has trouble driving at night, begin to address those issues before a problem arises.
  4. Forget the Baby Talk
    Remember you are talking to an adult, not a child. Patronizing speech or baby talk will put older adults on the defensive and convey a lack of respect for them. Put yourself in your parents' shoes and think of how you would want to be addressed in the situation.
  5. Maximize the Independence.
    Always try to move toward solutions that provide the maximum amount of independence for the older person. Look for answers that optimize strengths and compensate for problems. For instance, if your loved ones need help at home, look for tools that can help them maintain their strengths. Professional caregiving services, such as those offered by Home Instead, provide assistance in a number of areas including meal preparation, light housekeeping or medication reminders. Or find friends who can help.
  6. Be aware of the whole situation.
    If your dad dies and soon afterward your mom's house seems to be in disarray, it's probably not because she suddenly became ill. It's much more likely to stem from a lack of social support and the loss of a life-long relationship. Make sure that your mom has friends and a social life.
  7. Ask for Help
    Many of the issues of aging can be solved by providing parents with the support they need to continue to maintain their independence. Resources such as Home Instead, Area Agencies on Aging and local senior centers can help provide those solutions.

Please download the full "40-70" Rule® Booklet (PDF 800K), it includes a copy of the list above.

Last revised: December 8, 2010

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. April 7, 2016 at 1:10 am | Posted by Debbie Hochachka

    Dad died suddenly (while driving) leaving mom a widow. 12 years later she had CHF as well as renal failure. Her decision to not take dialysis and having a DNR in file made my life so much easier. As the eldest child with POA & then the primary co-executor I had a lot of responsibility giving account to my 6 brothers. Having mom able to clearly articulate her wishes to them cleared me of any supposed wrong doing. Having a clear "living will" is very considerate, and necessary. Just do it! :-D


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