How often have you heard about siblings who aren\’t speaking because of some minor dispute that happened years ago?

Maybe you know of siblings who were getting along just fine until they started talking about family issues and now they aren\’t speaking.

Or maybe a conversation brought up old baggage. When we have strong emotions and/or opinions, it\’s difficult really to listen to someone with different, equally strong emotions and/or opinions.

Maybe there is rivalry for Mom and Dad\’s attention.

When dealing with Eldercare, anything is possible. Eldercare can bring up old stuff or give rise to new stuff! Whenever dealing with families, parents, money, or possessions there\’s the potential for conflict. In fact, it\’s unusual if there aren\’t conflicts.

Some families even say that, to preserve the family\’s fortune of family relationship, avoiding difficult issues is a good reason not to talk! But when care of the elderly is at issue, not talking is not an option. Their well being requires that issues be confronted and disagreements be resolved immediately.

  • Don\’t fall into old family roles: The Caregiver, the placater, the leader, the follower, the rescuer. These may have been roles you played at one time, but now you can choose another role – that of “adult.” This may be difficult for you in the beginning. It may difficult for the others who are used to seeing you in the other role. But you\’re all adults now with an adult task at hand, so it\’s worth the effort.
  • What you say is important, of course, but equally important is what you don\’t say. Think carefully before you say anything in the heat of the moment that you can\’t take back. Avoid accusations, placing blame, or pointing fingers. Also avoid bringing up old “stories.” Stay focused on the issue at hand.
  • Listen! There is no more important time to use your listening skills.
  • Listen with an open mind. Hear what they have to say. Avoid trying to change their minds while they\’re still talking.
  • Be open to other options, opinions and points of view. Listening doesn\’t necessarily mean that you agree, only that you are willing to hear them out. Letting them get to the end of their thought shows respect. They also might surprise you. Sometimes when people are allowed to complete their thought, they talk themselves out of their position.
  • Listen to what the other person is saying and how it\’s being said, rather than how it\’s making you feel or wanting to formulate a response. Consider it a gift to have the opportunity to see the world through someone else\’s eyes.

Don\’t avoid talking. Not talking – and that includes not listening – may avoid unpleasantness now but it won\’t make the issue go away. If you think it might be necessary, find a Generational Coach or mediator to work with you and your family.

Good communication might take time, but it is definitely worth the effort. The more you practice your good communication skills, the easier it will be when you really need them.

© Copyright AgeWiseLiving® 2009 You can find information about how to talk with your aging loved ones in “The Ultimate Caregiver\’s Survival Guide”: the step by step blueprint to resolving your eldercare issues by choice, not crisis. While there, check out AgeWiseLiving® seminars and free teleseminars, and to sign up for Barbara\’s free monthly newsletter at 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.

Barbara Friesner is the country's leading Generational Coach and an expert on issues affecting Seniors and their families. She has been interviewed for Advising Boomers magazine, featured on NY1 TV's Focus on Seniors and Coping with Caregiving on wsRadio. She has also been quoted in newspapers and magazines across the country and her articles have been published in the CAPSule, the Children of Aging Parent's newsletter.