Initiating The Conversation With Seniors


You hesitate to talk with your aging loved ones about their care needs and future plans, but they are showing signs of needing more help. Mom keeps forgetting to take her medications. Dad is unsteady on his feet. How much longer can they live safely on their own? How do you and the rest of the family start a positive dialogue with your parents
about home care?

Initiating the conversation with an elderly loved one can feel daunting and is why Right at Home, a global leader in in-home care and assistance, has developed RightConversations for effective communication between you and your aging family members. A practical approach in the family caregiving process, RightConversations offers tips and tools for discussing your relative’s preferences and possibilities for extra assistance to continue a lifestyle they enjoy.

“At Right at Home, we understand the challenge of talking through health, finances and other personal issues with aging loved ones,” said Gregg Balbera, president of Right at Home Nassau Suffolk. “RightConversations helps families be proactive in what to discuss with seniors and how to phrase questions. RightConversations is a complimentary resource that reduces family caregiver stress and builds rapport between elders and their concerned family members.”

Balbera summarizes the 10 tips listed in the RightConversations guide, which will help foster strong family dynamics to ensure the safety and comfort of older relatives:


Gather accurate, relevant information to help you assess signs of your senior’s changing needs. Note if your senior can no longer perform certain tasks. Accompany your elder to doctor appointments to get a firsthand report.


Determine the level of concern warranted by observing signs that your loved one needs additional support. Are bills being paid? What about spoiled food in the home? Consider using the RightConversations Family Action Planner, which tracks delegated tasks for family members and service providers.


Review the facts and avoid personal biases so your loved one does not feel judged or pressured into what you want. Limit your assumptions about your senior’s well-being and stick to factual observations.


Involve siblings from the beginning in conversations with your older parent or relative. This may mean putting aside personal challenges with a brother or sister to seek the interests of your parent.


Plan the conversation to keep your thoughts organized. Practicing key points and open-ended questions for your time together will cultivate trust and productive conversation.


Create a positive conversation by listening with intent to understand rather than to respond. The goal is not to give advice but to express love and concern for your aging loved one.


Be aware of differences in communication styles among siblings and other family members.


Understand why your loved one may withhold information or resist sharing emotional vulnerability. While you are focused on protecting your parent’s home environment, they may be afraid of losing their independence or being abandoned in a care facility.


Do not make your loved one feel ambushed by a “you” versus “us” approach. Take time to acknowledge each other’s perspectives and focus on partnering rather than acting in opposition.


Be prepared for what to do if your loved one says “no” to suggestions for personal assistance and home care. Take a step back and give your senior time to think through your words and concerns and offer positive language.

While it can be disconcerting to see older loved ones show signs of needing more assistance with daily activities, many seniors are actually relieved their families notice and care. Exploring caregiving concerns and options together makes for shared decision making and meaningful relationships well beyond the initial conversation.

—Submitted by Right At Home

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