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Nov 26

Communication and Aging

Many of us have heard or been a part of this familiar story:

“Mom got disoriented the other day and got lost on the way to the store. By the time she got home, she was distraught. More than once she’s left the kettle on the stove and has ruined more than one pot. You know, Dad’s been in a wheelchair for a year and she’s been caring for him all alone. I wonder if she could use some help around the house, or maybe they would be more comfortable in an assisted living facility. None of us know what to do, and my siblings won’t even talk about it. Mom was raised to be very self-sufficient and will not even hear of moving into assisted living. My siblings and I have been putting off a conversation with Mom and every conversation ends in an argument. Now we aren’t even talking to each other. The damage seems irreparable, and Mom is no closer to any decisions about her future.”

As adult children of aging parents, many of us are sandwiched between our parents and our children, navigating complicated and untraveled waters. Many factors cause the situation described above and others like it to be complex and challenging. Family dynamics, independence, geography, time and resources are just a few matters to be considered in these situations.

Yet, there is one variable within our control: communication. There are many helpful resources available for families dealing with these issues, but one that I found helpful on this topic is: http://www.talk-early-talk-often.com/family-communication.html (note: the home page has audio). As a conflict resolution professional, I know that constant communication is paramount to making good decisions in times of crisis. The earlier and more often we are able to talk about challenging issues with our parents and siblings the more we can minimize crisis situations, be better prepared when a crisis arises and reduce conflicts among family members.

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