Talking with aging loved ones about thorny topics can be fraught with snags and pitfalls! So thorny, in fact, that many family members either never try . . . until there\’s a crisis, or try and fail and drop the subject . . . until there\’s a crisis! Since resolving issues is a lot easier before a crisis, here are five pitfalls (plus a bonus!) to avoid, to get you successfully on your way.

PITFALL #1) NOT RESPECTING THE GENERATIONAL AND EMOTIONAL DIFFERENCES

The fact is that generational attitudes and emotional perspectives matter . . . a lot. But too often family members think that because we come from the same family we think the same way. That\’s just not true! Our parent\’s generation is very different from ours and understanding and respecting how they view the world and feel about it emotionally is critical to your success. (For more information about our parent\’s generational and emotional perspectives, please check out the October and November \’05 newsletters on my website, http://www.agewiseliving.com/.)

PITFALL #2) THINKING YOUR CONCERN IS ENOUGH OF A REASON FOR A CHANGE.

Concern is good. Anticipating potential problems is great! However, before jumping in with both feet, ask yourself if your concern requires change and if so, does it require change now? If the answer to this question is ‘yes\’, then please do proceed! If the answer is ‘no\’ then start talking with your aging loved one about your concern for the future, not the need for change now.

PITFALL #3) ADDRESSING THE SYMPTOMS RATHER THAN THE CAUSE

For example: your father has had a couple of fender-benders so you want to take away the car. But before you do, ask yourself if the problem is with his driving or could it be something else such as a problem with his eyes? In other words, before doing anything, investigate and analyze all the symptoms until you find the root cause.

PITFALL #4) NOT PICKING YOUR BATTLES

Some problems need to be addressed immediately such as a diabetic eating chocolate. But stepping in because an aging loved one with no health issues eats a lot of chocolate may not only be unnecessary but possibly damaging to the relationship. Too much ‘nudging\’ – even with the best intentions – could get you shut out completely. Therefore, before stepping in, ask yourself: How urgent is the issue? Does it require change? How much change is necessary? Pick the most immediate and/or urgent issue and then proceed with care.

PITFALL #5) THINKING YOU CAN “CLOSE THE SALE” IN ONE CONVERSATION

Maybe you waited and now it\’s a crisis. Maybe you are just visiting for the weekend and you\’re pressed for time. Maybe you just want this thorny conversation to be over and done with! However, as much as you may want or need the issue to be resolved now, it\’s important to remember that your aging loved one is dealing with emotional and in many cases, life-altering issues. So slow down and remember: as difficult as this may be for you, this is far more difficult for them.

BONUS PITFALL:

PITFALL #6) TRYING TO SOLVE ALL PROBLEMS AT ONE TIME

“Oh, and while I\’m here . . .” or “While we\’re talking . . . ” Just as overwhelming as trying to “close the sale” in one conversation is trying to resolve all issues at one time. If you try, more often than not your aging loved one will be so overwhelmed they will say no to everything and very possibly, shut down completely. Therefore, start with the most critical issue and stop while everyone is still feeling good.

Remember, avoiding the snags and pitfalls will make everyone feel better!

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.