You only have to learn four simple steps to have a successful discussion with an older adult on any subject. These steps allow you to approach a difficult subject with almost anyone, and will definitely help you have a successful discussion with an older adult. Eventually everyone has to face difficult issues with aging parents whose desire to maintain independence may conflict with their physical ability to do so. You will find this technique immensely helpful as your parent’s age. Here are the four key steps to a successful discussion with an older adult:
Step 1: Maintain and Enhance Self-Esteem. Keep this step in mind from the beginning to the end of the discussion. Ensure that you enhance his or her self-esteem. Try a statement, like I know you are ___________(fill in the blank: self-reliant, smart, good driver, etc.). You should repeat this step throughout the discussion as often as necessary. Maintaining self-esteem is essential for everyone. It is essential to achieve a successful discussion with an older adult who has been independent since long before you were born.
Step 2: Clearly state the problem. This is something you should spend some time on before you have a discussion. In the process of clearly stating the problem you cannot beat around the bush nor should you be accusatory in any way. When you are prepared to clearly state the problem you should be able to answer who, what, and when during the discussion. You should also be able to support why you are concerned with facts about the subject. If the problem is not addressed, what might happen? All that requires preparation before you can clearly state the problem.
All of the above doesn’t have to be in the original clear statement of the problem, but you should be prepared to utilize the information you gathered during the discussion.
Step 3: Ask for help in solving the problem. Get your parent to tell you how he or she is going to alleviate your concerns. Telling you not to worry about is not a solution. What is she or he going to do to relieve you of your concerns? Here is where some of the facts you gathered before beginning the discussion might come in handy to back up why it is important to address your concerns. No matter what, let your parent provide you with the solution. You may suggest but never select what the solution is. And always maintain and enhance your parent’s esteem.
Step 4: Set a follow-up date to discuss the situation again. Do this even if your parent refuses to provide a proposed solution to the problem. The follow-up date doesn’t have to be an exact date and time, but it is essential to agree on a future date. That date can be next month, a couple of months, or whatever you think is enough time before you address the situation again.
When the follow-up date rolls around, begin the discussion again starting with Step #1. Even if your parent proposed a solution that was successful, it is important to keep this date. You want to take time to congratulate your parent on the solution if it worked. If it did not work, a solution wasn’t provided, or the problem still exists it is important to continue the discussion.
If you learn and commit to these four steps, you are sure to have a successful discussion with an older adult on any subject. Sometimes you may have to go through these steps more than once to achieve a solution to the problem. Don’t give up and stick to these four steps for the greatest possible success in solving issues that may come up as your parent’s age.