How to talk to a stubborn aging parent

Father & Son

Read about some techniques communicating more effectively with a tough audience.

We hear about (or complain about) aging parents who appear stubborn and difficult to talk to about important matters like legal affairs, housing changes, and needing or receiving help. Sometimes their stubbornness masks their fear of change or aging or is a demonstration of their will to retain independence. Yet sometimes our intervention is necessary and we have to discuss important matters.

Forbes.com published an article with some suggestions about how to talk to a stubborn aging parent:

“Pick your battles.
If your aging parent has a lifelong habit you don’t like, and it’s not getting in the way of safety, forget it. Start with the big, scary-for-us things like Dad being unable to cook, not having enough food in the house since Mom died, or other basics that really do involve safety.

Pick your best time, place and person to have “the talk” with your aging parent.
The one who never got along with Dad may not be the best person to bring this up. Does Dad have a favorite? Ask her to do it. Try the conversation during a time of day when Dad is most likely to be amenable, like after his favorite meal when he’s feeling full and happy.

Use humor.
If we can find a way to get our parent to smile or laugh at all, about anything, we’re a step ahead. The immediate “laughterglow” of sharing something a little funny is perfect for breaking down resistance.

Always put the need for change on us, not on our parents.
When we want our parent to make some kind of change, make it our problem and take all the blame. If we’re trying to get Mom to accept a home helper, think about pitching it as our need, not hers.

Use the “yes-and” technique.
This is something we mediators use all the time to redirect conversations. When someone disagrees with us, instead of saying, “that’s not true, you nitwit”, we choose another response. We can acknowledge what our parent just said with the words, “Yes”, followed by “and” followed by whatever is the contrary thought. For example:

Dad:
“I don’t need to sign a bunch of stupid legal papers now! I’ll worry about that when I get old!”
Us:
Yes, and lots of people are getting these DPOA’s (durable power of attorney) signed even when they’re young, like me. In fact, I need to do it, too. I’d like to bring mine over and show you and maybe we can sign them together. What do you say?”

Read the full article here.

Directing our aging parents to unwelcome change is difficult but sometimes necessary. Try out these persuasion techniques and see if they help you talk to a stubborn aging parent. Sometimes we have to keep trying, as the safety of the aging parent may be at stake.

Visit our website to learn more about caring for your aging parent.
CARING FOR MY PARENTS | Life, Love, Tears & Laughs

 

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