With the holiday season fast approaching, you may think this is an ideal time to openly discuss eldercare needs with the people in your immediate family. And I think otherwise.
You’ve probably heard the expression, “timing is everything.” That statement is especially true when it comes to holiday family gatherings.
Think about a past situation when an important conversation that you initiated went haywire. Perhaps Mom was distracted and didn’t respond to you. Or Grandpa told you he is too tired to talk. And who hasn’t experienced a scenario when other family members (siblings especially) disrupt your conversation — purposely or otherwise — and show no respect and little concern for you or what you have to say?
When the timing of important conversations is not right, you sense it. Nothing you say is well received and none of your suggestions are readily accepted.
Instead of blaming others for not listening or responding, check out these talking tips below.
In-person or over the phone?
With family members living far apart, it’s tempting to talk about important eldercare over the phone. But before you consider this approach, be aware that reading facial expressions and body language is an important component of effective communication. People send out visual clues that it’s time to change communication tactics or to back off altogether.
For example, how will you know if your parent is nervous or uncomfortable — frowning, tapping a foot, or looking at the clock — or know whether your parent seems relaxed — smiling and looking you in the eyes? Reading body language is helpful. Physically being there allows you to acknowledge your parent in various ways such as moving your body forward (or away), touching, nodding your head, and making eye contact.
Then the question is where to have the conversation.
For in-person conversations, pick a quiet place where your parent can clearly hear what you are saying and a location that is free from distractions. As a rule, holiday family parties are not an ideal time to discuss eldercare needs. Such gatherings tend to revive historical relationship patterns; and other family members who are present may purposely sabotage your efforts.
A restaurant setting also has limitations. Most are loud and noisy. Uninterrupted conversations are practically impossible. And parents can easily feel as though they are on the hot seat with nowhere to run.
Setting aside time to talk doesn’t mean that you have to hold a formal meeting. Sometimes the best discussions take place while you’re driving the car or puttering around the kitchen.
These and many other communication strategies are available in my book, The Complete Eldercare Planner.