Navigating Difficult Family Caregiving Conversations

Navigating difficult family caregiving conversations is easier when following these tips.

As parents age into their later years, there are a number of conversations that need to take place. Many of these conversations are around sensitive topics such as finances, aging care options, driving, safety, legal issues, and estate planning. When these topics are broached, it’s common to have a different opinion than an older loved one, or even than siblings and other family members. The most important aspect when discussing any of these subjects is to keep the best interest of the older loved one in mind.

To help families navigate difficult caregiving conversations with older parents, American, Advocate and Whitsyms In-Home Care share the following recommendations.

Talk Early and Often About the Future

Have conversations frequently about planning for future care needs. Doing this early, before the need for care arises, makes the topic easier to discuss because the scenario is hypothetical, rather than urgent. By having regular conversations around planning for the future, a loved one can make wishes known, allowing family members to act accordingly once a care need arises. Frequent conversations also allow the older parent to verbalize any changes to care wishes. Waiting to have these conversations until the middle of a crisis is stressful to everyone involved, and family members may be unable to fulfill a loved one’s wishes.

Make Observations and Do Homework Before Taking Action

Broaching a sensitive topic without any firsthand knowledge can backfire. Take the time to observe and gather accurate information before beginning a conversation. For example, if family members are concerned about an older loved one continuing to drive, ride along and observe before bringing up any safety concerns. Similarly, if family members are concerned about a loved one living safely at home alone, visit for a few days to get a real sense of how the older loved one navigates day-to-day responsibilities. Is the person able to bathe independently, shop and prepare healthy meals? Is the house clean and free from trip and fall hazards? When broaching concerns with the older loved one, always have realistic solutions to offer that can help the person continue to live safely and independently.

Use Effective Communication

No one wants to feel ganged up on and put on the defensive. If it’s a struggle to broach a sensitive topic with a loved one, try an indirect approach, such as a conversation about an article or a friend’s situation that is similar. Refrain from using “you” statements, which put people on the defensive. Instead, use “I” statements such as “I am concerned about…” “I’d like to help you with…” “I’m wondering about…” Remember that it’s a two-way conversation. Ask for the person’s input with specific questions: “Is taking care of the house becoming challenging for you?” “Would having some assistance with things be helpful?” “Are there worries or concerns you’d like to share with me?” “I’m wondering what your wishes are if something should happen to you?”
During these conversations, be a respectful listener and validate your loved one’s concerns. Listen with an open mind and then reflect back what was said. Approach the conversation from a point of compassion, realizing that change is difficult. Recognize that the unknown can cause fear, and try reassuring the individual and validating their feelings.

Include Key People in the Conversations

An older loved one may be more willing to have a conversation or listen to advice about a sensitive subject from a trusted friend, member of the family, or from a respected advisor such as a physician, attorney, or religious leader. Often hearing advice from one of these individuals will help the older loved one feel more confident about making a change. As a family caregiver, be open to hearing alternative solutions that may be effective for an older parent.

Base the Conversations on Love and Support

If conversations about sensitive topics become heated, remember there is one common goal: ensuring the best quality of life for an older adult. Be sincere and respectful and ground conversations around a desire to support the person’s independence, dignity and safety. As a family caregiver, reassure them that the goal is to support them, not take over their life. Ensure that the older adult feels loved and empowered about making difficult decisions by providing emotional support and practical solutions.

How In-Home Care Can Help

The friendly and knowledgeable referred care providers at American, Advocate and Whitsyms In-Home Care are here to help by offering a variety of in-home care services that help adults maintain independence through:

  • Companionship including conversations about current events or reminiscing
  • Transportation to doctors’ appointments, running errands or to social outings
  • Planning and preparing nutritious meals and snacks
  • Light housekeeping and laundry services
  • Assistance with personal care needs
  • Home safety assessments
  • Specialized care for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or other health conditions
  • Post-operative care
  • Skilled nursing care for assistance with catheters, wound care, medication management
  • And much more!

Each plan of care is customized through collaboration between the client and care provider, to help individuals remain in the familiarity of their home and community, while prioritizing quality of life.

To help learn more about the Florida in-home care services trusted by families throughout the state, contact the office nearest you to discover all the ways in-home care can help older Floridians thrive.

State of Florida License and Registration Numbers: 30211518, 30211651, 30211295, 30211390, 30210978, 30211293, 30211382, 30211504, 30211733, 30211535, 30211531, 30211710, 30211709, 30211045, 5661