If you\’ve been reading my past columns, you know that I always say that for the best results, talk early and often with your aging loved so you can resolve your eldercare issues by choice, not crisis. The earlier you start talking, the easier it is to get plans in place. The better the planning, the easier it will be for them and you in the long term.

Before you begin to have your conversations with your aging loved one, however, there are some very important basic realities to keep in mind. Remembering these basic realities will help you have conversations that produce more than stress and frustration.

Basic Reality #1: THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES

Ideally your aging loved one will come around to your way of thinking but the basic reality is that they may not! It\’s important to try – and to keep trying – but there are no guarantees.

Basic Reality #2: YOU CAN\’T MAKE ANYONE WANT TO CHANGE

Trying to impose your will over theirs is likely to have one of 4 effects:
a) they will stop talking to you
b) they will become even more stubborn
c) they will comply grudgingly, with anger & resentment and do their best to undermine your efforts
d) they will surrender to you altogether and become completely dependent on you

You will be more successful if you are willing to give a little, find ways to compromise and make accommodations, and accept that you will have to accept whatever comes – even if it falls short of your wishes.

Basic Reality #3: YOUR AGING LOVED ONES HAVE THE RIGHT TO MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS

As long as they\’re capable of making their own decisions, your aging loved ones have the right to make their own decisions. Sometimes you can do little or nothing to help them. Contrary to popular belief, you never become your “parent\’s parent”. Even if you\’re the caregiver, the best you can hope for is for it to be a collaboration. Remembering and respecting this is essential if you\’re going to have a workable relationship. Sometimes being patient and just letting it be for a while is your best plan of action.

Basic Reality #4: “YOU DON\’T SEE THINGS AS THEY ARE. YOU SEE THINGS AS YOU ARE.”

As the Talmud says, “You don\’t see things as they are. You see things as you are.” In other words, it\’s human nature to think that everyone sees things the way we do – especially our parents who are, after all . . . our parents. But the reality is that we all see things from our own unique perspective through the lens of our own generational, emotional, and personal experiences – even the same situation!

Keep this in mind as you work with your aging loved one. Know that sometimes the solution will be illogical from your point of view. As you approach your aging loved one, remember that it\’s not about YOU – it has to be about THEM. Therefore, to improve communication, try to see things from their point of view and adapt your communication style and approach to theirs.

Basic Reality #5: TIMING IS EVERYTHING

I had a client who before calling me, flew in to talk with his mother. The plane was delayed so he didn\’t arrive until 9:30 at night. Although he was stressed from the flight, he still insisted on talking with his mother that night. With a start like that, needless to say, the entire trip was a bust. Had he waited until he was calm, he would have had much better results.

These are difficult conversations so you have to be flexible about when you bring it up. If you force the conversation just because that\’s the time you planned to have it, it won\’t work.

Timing is everything. You may want it “solved” now so you don\’t have to worry about them, have another conversation, etc. but a number of small, calm conversations will serve you much better in the long run.

Basic Reality #6: EVEN IF YOU CAN\’T AGREE, SOMETHING GOOD MAY COME FROM TALKING.

Even if you can\’t agree on what\’s in their best interest, talking will help open the lines of communication. If nothing comes of the conversation other than clarifying each other\’s wishes and concerns, it will have been worth it. At least they know you are concerned and it may start them thinking. And if you start early, you can try again later.

Basic Reality #7: KNOW WHEN TO HOLD ‘EM, WHEN TO FOLD ‘EM, AND WHEN TO WALK AWAY

If your aging loved one is of sound mind then they don\’t have to do anything. Ideally with your help, they\’ll want to do what\’s in their best interest but if they don\’t want to do something, they don\’t have to! So sometimes it\’s better to step back or actually walk away so you can try again another day.

That\’s why I can\’t stress enough how important is to START EARLY! Even in a crisis, things don\’t happen over night.

© Copyright AgeWiseLiving® 2008 You can find information “How To Be Your Own Generational Coach”, WORKBOOK, AgeWiseLiving® seminars and free teleseminars, and to sign up for Barbara\’s free monthly newsletter at www.AgeWise
Living.com
or by calling toll-free (877) AGE-WISE. Barbara E. Friesner is an author and the country\’s leading Generational Coach and expert on issues affecting seniors and their families. She is an adjunct professor at Cornell University, where she created and teaches “Seniors Housing Management” at Cornell\’s School of Hotel Administration.