Honesty and Empowerment

We’ve all heard the phrase “honesty is the best policy” and, for the most part, it’s true.  Now there are certain exceptions to this rule, for example if your spouse asks you if her pants make her look fat, I would recommend that this would be an exception where sharing alternate options would be preferable to saying “yes”.

However; when it comes to discussing changes we are seeing in our aging loved ones we need to, with love, share our concerns honestly and clearly along with empowering them to take action.

Case in point:

Challenge:  A client recently shared with me that his in-laws are determined to stay in their home.  This is a problem for the family because the layout of the home is not conducive to their growing health issues.  Small bathrooms and lots of stairs have created a challenge for the father to get around.  I asked if he and his wife had shared their concerns with her parents.  He said they’ve made comments here and there, which made her parents defensive.

Recommendation: I suggested that, instead of making comments they share their concerns in a loving and direct way by saying something like “Mom and Dad, you’ve always been so independent, we want to empower you to stay that way as long as possible.  Though this house has worked for you for the last 50 years, we are concerned about how it will work for you in the future and want to encourage you to think about your future.”

Ask questions such as:

  • How is the bathroom space working for you? 
  • What if you needed to use a bath bench/toilet seat or wheel chair, how would it fit in that space?
  • How do you see yourselves in the future living in this home with the stairs?
  • What ideas do you have that would help you in the future to either stay in the home?
  • What if you were no longer able to get up and down the stairs what would you do?
  • Do you have a written plan for future care?

These questions might still put them on the defense but it will get them thinking about those things for themselves.   Make sure to follow-up.  This doesn’t have to be the center of conversation every time you’re together, however; follow-up is important.

Too many families don’t have these conversations because they are awkward or for fear of a confrontation.   In spite of these fears, when done in an honest and loving way, keeping in mind it’s about empowering them; you may be surprised at the outcome.

About Sue Salach

Sue has a Master's degree in Gerontology and has worked with the elderly and their families for over 30 years and is the Author of "Along Comes Grandpa", a caregiving resource guide, and the novel "If I Walked in Her Shoes". As an ElderCare Expert and Keynote Speaker, Sue employs her comprehensive experience and passion, to educate and promote self-care values to family caregivers and the community at large.
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