The Tough Talk

Attempting to broach the topic of elder care.

Mom says, “it’s time to turn the ol’ truck over to a permanent repair shop.” Seeing as though they own a car, and I am not enough of an auto aficionado to know that there isn’t a permanent resting ground for automobiles needing long term repair, I offer up the only solution I could to save them some money as I suggest that my somewhat mechanically inclined friend take a look at it.

“No,” she says, “your friend can’t give him a shower every day, and I’m not capable of doing it anymore.”

Okay, now my clearly stumped brain can’t process the reasons why a truck, rather a car, needs to be washed every day. I’m lucky if I get one every day!

Alright, now fast forward a little. The truck would be my dad. I just didn’t know that’s what she was talking about at first. I’m sure it was her attempt at making light of the topic at hand, or maybe she was just unsure how to broach the topic. But I did understand at that point, that the tough talk needed to be had.

I realized in that moment that this conversation isn’t an easy one no matter how you approach it. Regardless of the approach, it’s a topic that inevitably must be dealt with at some point. So here are my tips on allowing this tough conversation to be a fruitful one.

Approach is key

It shouldn’t feel like an intervention. In fact, if the person in question is of sound mind and able to have an open conversation, the approach should be treated with solicitude. Having to hand over responsibility of care is never an easy decision. After all, they are agreeing to accept a new normal into their life, and this transition can be a scary one.

Navigate through the conversation in a lighthearted manner

By all means voice your concerns, but be sure to do so, lovingly. A lot is said for being a voice of reason. Someone is more willing to accept a change if it’s not forced on them. Allowing them to realize on their own that they are in need of help, may actually lead the person to have an “aha” moment, and accept or suggest an idea on their own.

Make a list together

Allowing an individual to visibly see what areas in their life are no longer manageable may be the proof they need to accept a change. Now, you may have on your hands an old curmudgeon like my dad who can’t hold a tool stable enough to save his life, but still insists on needing his workshop, so the conversation may take some finesse. Some individuals just refuse to enlist help and would much rather power through until the end. I think it may largely have to do with pride in my dad’s case, but dignity is not something that anyone wants to lose.

Don’t nitpick and try to find excuses for needing care

Now, while it is important to make a list of things you have noticed over time that your loved one is struggling with, don’t make them feel like forgetting to set the trash out the night before means they have Alzheimer’s of the worst degree. You’ll know what areas of life your loved one is having difficulties with so don’t overthink it. People tend to feel backed into a corner when it feels like they are under attack. My brain can’t even function to full capacity if I don’t get a sound sleep the night before. I mean, Lord help the poor soul that tries to place me in a nursing home because I accidentally put the cat’s food in the dog’s bowl one morning. It just means I haven’t had enough coffee, not that I woke up with sudden amnesia. Not everything is an issue, so don’t make everything an issue.

Make sure your concerns are not only heard, but well received

If you are having a realistic discussion with your loved one about seeking help with their care, don’t just paint them a picture with rainbows and unicorns and expect them to love it as much as you do. Chances are, especially if they are hesitant about receiving help in the first place, that no matter how pretty the picture is that you’ve painted for the facilities you’ve researched that boasts of relaxation and a care free lifestyle, it won’t be enough to convince them. Take into consideration when communicating with them what they deem important. If they prefer to be a grouch in the corner who doesn’t want to be bothered, don’t try and sell them on the number of friends they could make at the new joint. Give them options for places that offer private rooms so they can still maintain their privacy and be a hermit if they occasionally want to.

Give them a proper visual

By all means, if a facility is what you’ve decided on TOGETHER, take them for a tour. Let them see the place, and preferably take them at a time when activities are scheduled so they can get a real feel for the social life and community. If your loved one is like my dad, whose main goal in life is to complain at a restaurant about food quality and why he shouldn’t diminish his life savings on food that tastes like a five-year-old made it, then take them during a time when you can share a meal there together and experience the food firsthand. I’ll cross my fingers for you because more than likely you won’t hear a rave review if they’re a serial complainer or not outwardly expressive unless they’re displeased, but all that matters is that if it was somewhat enjoyable, it may make them a little less apprehensive about everything.

However the topic is brought up when it comes to your loved one, and however you choose to engage in the conversation, every scenario is unique. Only you know your loved one best, and only you can help them make a well-rounded and informed decision.

The day will come when I will have to rehash the tough talk when it comes to my mom and when that day comes, I’m not exactly sure how I will broach the subject. However, I highly doubt that when I do that I will be referring to her as an ol’ Sedan in need of a permanent salon.