When Discussing Assisted Living with Mom, Are You Listening Enough? (Hint: Many of Us Don’t)
Many adults who witness their parents or grandparents getting older worry about their safety, health, well-being, and even the place they call home. They may visit or even act as a family caregiver for a few days, weeks, or even months, and wonder how things are going to change in the future.
Assisted living is one of the best elder care options available, but far too often when family members, including adult children, grandchildren, a spouse, siblings, and so forth, bring up the topic, it can be met with resistance.
This is often driven by misunderstandings or misconceptions about what assisted living is, does, and offers. Many elderly men and women simply don’t know that some assisted living facilities provide respite care or short-term options. They assume committing to going to an assisted living facility is a full-time, permanent solution to what they may view as a short-term challenge.
When discussing this elder care option, be sure to listen well.
Most of us may read that statement, shake our head, and say, “Yes, I listen plenty,” but are we listening well? It’s simple enough to hear somebody talking or answering a question you may ask, but there are many facets to quality communication that easily get overlooked.
If a person becomes immediately defensive regarding a certain topic, was the question posed in a nonthreatening way? Is there a reason for that immediate defensive posturing?
Sometimes a person may become dismissive about a certain issue, but their body language tells a different tale. They may be worried about their current state of physical ability, health, or the future, but are more worried about losing independence and the ability to make decisions for themselves.
When discussing assisted living with your elderly mother, father, spouse, sibling, or whoever it is, just because you may be hearing the words they use and are throwing back at you doesn’t mean you’re listening well enough. This is not an attack on you because most people don’t have a true understanding of every aspect of ‘listening.’
How do we ‘listen’ better?
First and foremost, we need to enter every conversation without preconceived notions. You may have the goal of convincing your elderly mother or father that assisted living is the best option for them moving forward, but set that aside when you sit down to talk to them, especially if you know they will be defensive or argumentative at first.
Next, we need to be looking at all the communication tools a person has at their disposal, including body language, volume, the words they use, and so forth. A lot of people express fear and anxiety through anger and frustration.
Also, it’s important to ask specific, pointed questions that dig deeper and then allow that individual plenty of time to answer. When they do answer, don’t try to correct them. Merely allow them time and space to express what they’re feeling and thinking.
Later on, perhaps an hour later or the next day or so, you can come back with information you can show them, facts they can read for themselves, that may counter the misconceptions they had about assisted living.
When you’re trying to convince a senior to consider assisted living, keep in mind how well you truly do listen and you’ll see the inroads you can make from there.