Communication with Elderly Parents is Vital to Caregiving

It's not easy to communicate with your elderly parents about what's going to happen as they age. Who's going to take care of them? Where can they go? What should they do?

These questions and more plague both parents and adult children faced with such issues.

Housing, senior home care, residential care homes, space considerations and finances need to be addressed. Can you afford to take care of your parents? Would they be better off in a senior care facility? Can he or she afford such care?

Communicating with elderly parents about these issues and many more is only a part of the care giving process. Adult children must overcome obvious reluctance to discuss such issues and find the words that convey concern without making a parent feel like a burden, or worse – unwanted.

What issues are difficult to talk about with Mom or Dad? How have you broached the subject? Click here to see what others are saying.

Broaching the Subject of Care

It may be difficult to mention your concerns to your parent. However, remember that open and honest communication is vital. What you say and how you say it will depend on various factors, such as:

  • Your mother or father's current medical health
  • Where he or she lives nearby, in another state, or even in your home
  • Current support and help factors
  • Medical prognosis of certain conditions such as Alzheimer's, frailty or convalescence from surgery, illness or injury
elderly parents communication

Remember that, depending on age, health and awareness, reactions may range from:

  • Relief to openly discuss issues
  • Denial that such issues are relevant
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Dread

Some parents are more than willing to discuss options. Others may crumble into tears, perhaps fearing that you don't want the burden of caring for them.

Others may find it hard to accept that he or she needs help with daily living activities, medications or medical care. Be prepared for anything.

Above all, be patient. Don't bring up every issue or concern you have all at once. In some cases, the parent may bring up issues and at others, it will be like pulling teeth to get him or her to discuss anything.

elderly parents communication

The Right Place, the Right Time

When addressing such issues, do remember to:

  • Choose a time to broach certain topics when you won't be interrupted
  • Maintain focus on your elderly parent's concerns and fears. Let your parent voice or express fears, worries and anxieties
  • Listen to what your parent says. Don't just hear the words. Really listen to what he or she is saying, even if your mind is made up already
  • Word your concerns or issues as questions and make your parent feel part of the problem solving process
  • Be honest about your own concerns, fears and limitations
  • Avoid pushing your elderly parent to tackle too many issues at once. Such discussions take time.

Dealing with Resentful Siblings

Family relationships often suffer when one sibling takes control of or cares for an aging parent. In many families, elder care is relegated to the oldest sibling, while in others the youngest often finds him or herself as primary caregiver. Sometimes, care giving is directly related to who lives closest to Mom or Dad.

Family disagreements about care, decisions and finances often drive a wedge between siblings and other family members.

Regardless of the fact that you are an adult now and may have children of your own, the decisions and issues involved in providing care for an elderly and sometimes ailing parent places stress on everyone concerned.

sibling rivalry resentment

The rest of the family may be uncomfortable with the sibling offering (or relegated to providing) care. On the other end of the spectrum, the care giving sibling may feel a certain amount of resentment for having to deal with the burden of making sure Mom or Dad is okay at home, with residential care homes or placed in a senior home care facility while other siblings enjoy their freedom.

Resolving Conflicts with Siblings

One of the best ways to resolve conflicts, disagreements and discussions regarding care is to be involved. Even if you live out of state from your elderly parent and a sibling offering care, make it a point to be involved in issues.

Many siblings who are not caregivers often feel annoyed if he or she is not offered input regarding care, but if you don't make it a point to be part of the overall care process, you really have lost the right to complain.

Make it a point to:

  • Call the care giving sibling often
  • Offer to help in any way you can
  • Acknowledge your appreciation of the sacrifices and care that your sibling has offered your elderly parent

Speaking with Professional Caregivers

A care giving sibling must often enlist the help or advice of professional caregivers when it comes to dealing with Mom's behavior issues, Dad's outright refusal to bathe or a sibling's hesitance to help.

Keep in mind that each of these issues may involve medical causes as well as fears and uncertainties. Support for caregivers may be found in social workers, counselors, or your parent's health care providers.

Regardless, if you are a caregiver involved in elder care, seek out the support of friends, family members or local care giving groups to help relieve some of the stress and to gain or learn from the experience of others.

Talking with Elderly about Finances

Money Topics to Discuss


Elderly Emotional Issues

Emotional Issues

assessing Needs, Aging Process

Knowing What to Do and When


Elderly Services

Elderly Services

How is Communication with Your Elderly Parents....Great!...not so Great?

Are You Stressed out caring for Mom and Dad? How do you communicate? What drives a split between you or makes you closer?

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