Difficult Conversations

At this time of year many families spend time together. Some children or grandchildren travel hundreds or thousands of miles to join and support their loved ones. At times they are quite surprised to see the deterioration that has happened to their parent in just one short year. They know change is coming but aren’t sure how to open up those difficult conversations yet it is needed. Most parents don’t want to talk about retirement residences, nursing homes or death. At times parents want to talk but the children will say, “Mom don’t talk that way.” “Everything will be okay.”

My question is how do you honor a parent’s wishes if you have no idea what they want. Sometimes a parent has refused to even think about what could happen.

Step #1

Show your love and appreciation for you mom or dad. Remember some of the special things they did for you. It might be: a dress for a prom or a new pair of hockey skates; a special birthday party or a sleep over with friends; a toy you wanted or a home built fort;  their understanding when you borrowed the car and it got damaged “on your watch”….Some times it will be hard to come up with good memories but try.

Step # 2

I have found that telling them a story about someone else is less offensive than discussing their own situation. An example: “Mom you can’t believe what happened to my friend Mary. She had a call from the hospital and had to decide whether to put her mom on life support or not. She was POA but they had never discussed what her mom wanted. There she stood thinking – if we don’t put her on life support she could die and if we do she could be in a coma like state for several years. What would mom want? What do I do?… If that ever happened to you what would you want me to do?”

You can also use this method to discuss other topics. Use a news article or an example from a friend.

Step # 3 Back off. You can not make a conversation happen but you can plant a seed.

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