Difficult Conversations Baby Boomers & Aging Parents. Gail Henson, Ph. D. Hospice Institute Bellarmine University. Goals. What are stressors for the baby boomers? What are the difficult conversations? Why are they difficult? Barriers, issues, roles How can we have them? Models.
Gail Henson, Ph. D.
Did not fight in World War II, Korea
Did not live through Depression
We expect a high standard of living
Paying for children’s education
Saving for retirement
We have big mortgages, debt
We like to eat out
We like to travel
We’re really tiredBaby Boomer issues
Group discussion & activity
Why is life so fragile?
Why is everything living transient?
How do I deal with suffering? How can I deal with pain or discomfort as I die?
Do I fight death or do I embrace it?
Why am I suffering?
What is quality of life?
What is the meaning of my life?
What is my legacy?
What is a good death?
What will the hour of my death be like?
Can I prepare for death?
Does anyone care about my death?
Does my death affect anyone?
What loose ends need to be tied up before I die?Conversations –Religious & philosophical
Will I continue suffering? Will I be reborn into a new existence or into a cosmic nothingness?
How do I go into the next stage? Is it dark or light? Is there a life after this?
What is heaven (or hell) like?
Will there be angels or demons?
Will I see God (or a devil)?
Will there be a judgment?
Will there be people, places, or animals I know?More conversations…
Many factors affect any conversations
How can you prepare for the challenges?
Consider such factors as relationship, culture, communication patterns, verbal communication, and nonverbal communication
Boundaries long established
Feeling it would be disrespectful
Not knowing how to begin
Dislike or disgust
Not having the emotional energy to do this
Personality clashesSo why is it so hard to have tough conversations?
May seem like you’re being disobedient
If you set boundaries, you may be hurt by the consequences
If you set boundaries, you may hurt others
You may think that boundaries mean you’re angry
You may feel so obligated to your parents that you may feel guilty
You may feel like boundaries are permanentDifficult conversations lead to drawing lines—settingboundariesSometimes it’s hard to establish boundaries with your parents
Performance, discipline, initiative, planning
Can your parent remember to wash his/her clothes? Eat? Pay bills? Take pills?
Fear of abandonment
Fear of their anger
Fear of punishment
Fear of being seen as bad or selfish
Fear of being shamed
Fear of being unspiritual
Fear of your own overstrict, critical conscience
Can you say, “No” without one of these fears?If you’re a compliant person, you may have a hard time, due to fear
“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see everything as a nail.”
Search for solutions
Study & evaluate
Goal is it to understand?
is it to feel a certain way?
is it to do something?
Context: planned, unplanned—crisis, spontaneous
Barriers & boundaries
Adult child Conversation Parent
Are you sure they hear you? you feel?
Do they understand the words you’re using?
Do they understand things in a way you did not intend?
Lesson 1 Meanings are always in people
Lesson 2 Meanings are more than words and gestures
Lesson 3 Meanings are always unique, one-time
Lesson 4 Meanings have both connotations and denotations
Lesson 5 Meanings are always context basedDo your parents understand what you mean? Perhaps not….
“Don’t use that tone of voice with me!”—Parents of the world
Avoiding the topic
Minimizing the issue
Blaming the person
Silencing the person
Gunnysacking—saving up all the issues and dumping them
Giving feedback you feel?
Being specificListening and your parentFeedback is important
Compensation for distance
Signal nature of relationship
Which part of the body does the touching you feel?
Which part of the body is touched
How long the touch lasts
How much pressure is used
Whether there is movement after contact is made
The situation in which the touch occurs
The relationship you have with the parentNonverbal issues to consider with your parent
Factors you feel?
Level of sophistication
Note: assumptions not always accurate!Nonverbal issuesAppearance leads to assumptions
What’s your nonverbal communication style with your parent(s)?
“When I’m no longer here, I want you to have this…”
“It seems like every friend I have is gone…”
Answer such leading statements with responses that invite more conversation
“You seem to feel that life is getting short…”
“It must be getting very lonely for you…”So you have to talk—how to get started
Paraphrase an opening… what you heard to check your understanding—is this what you mean?
Express understanding (if you understand)-empathy may be a challenge if you’re tired!
Try to get your parent to explore feelings
Affirm and validateListening to your parent
Be determined NOT to get angry yourself (right) an opening…
Get on the same physical level as your parent
Be silent so you won’t say something you’ll regret
Express your concern nonverbally
Make appropriate empathetic statements “I think I can see why you are so upset”
DO NOT say
“I know just how you feel”
(can you read minds???)
Remind yourself that YOU control your emotions
Angry outbursts rarely change someone’s mind.Warning! Don’t let anger sabotageyour conversation
Final Gifts*** an opening…
I’ll Take Care of You
Are Your Parents Driving You Crazy?
Aging Parents, Ambivalent Baby Boomers
Elder Rage: How to Survive Caring for Your Aging Parents
Family Ties that Bind
Boundaries. When to say YES;When to Say No to take control of your life. Workbook to Boundaries
Boundaries Face to Face
Feeling GoodSuggestions for Reading
Gail Henson, Ph. D.