At Elder, we’ve helped families all over the UK to come to the best care decision for their loved ones. In this guide, we’ll cover how to keep conversations on track, and what to do when you don’t see eye to eye.
Before you start
Just because you’ve noticed a loved one is finding some day-to-day tasks difficult, doesn’t necessarily mean others in the family have too. Again, it’s not uncommon for people to have different opinions of when and where extra help is needed – especially when that help is coming from outside of the family.
It can be easy to get riled up when someone seems to reject your plans out of hand. So, before starting a conversation, think about why other family members might object to the type of care you’re suggesting. If they’re currently the primary carer perhaps they might find the suggestion a slight on their efforts?
If they live far away they may not realise what it’s like for your loved one day-to-day. They may even refuse your suggestion because of underlying feelings of guilt around not being there as much as they’d like.
Start by writing down what you want to say, while thinking about how your family may feel and respond.
Try to avoid having these family discussions on big occasions such as Christmas too. While it’s tempting to get it out the way when everyone’s together you don’t want to be seen as ambushing a happy occasion. Emotions can run high at family events, and if alcohol is involved the chances of having an effective discussion are minimal.
Always involve the person needing care when possible
If they can communicate their wishes, then your loved one should be involved in these discussions too. Ask them what their preferences and priorities are. Write down a few notes of the things you’d like to discuss and then ask them for their views.
It’s essential to make sure they feel as involved as possible in the decision-making process, that it’s something you’re working on as a team, rather than something that’s being done to them. Their wishes will often act as a guiding light that can bring the rest of the family together.
Listen to understand, not to respond
Make sure you’re giving yourself space to really listen to what your family members are saying. It’s all too easy to be thinking about your own counterargument, instead of making an effort to understand someone else’s point of view.
Be sure to give your full attention. Ask follow-up questions and if you don’t agree with something, make a note to revisit it later once everyone has had a chance to have their say.
Taking care to listen actively is an influential behaviour. The more you do it, the more people will return the favour when it’s your turn to speak.
Keep an open mind
Conversations are always more successful when you’re open to learning something new.
Care is a complex and emotive topic. Even after hours of research you and your family members are unlikely to know everything. This means there’s a lot of room for different perspectives and ideas. There’s no shame in questioning your assumptions, admitting you don’t have an answer, or changing your mind.
Always ask for clarification if something doesn’t sound right to you. Misunderstandings can often stem from the way something has been worded, or from just assuming you know what someone means.
Discuss real-life scenarios
Whenever you’re talking through the benefits of getting support, it’s important to be as specific as possible. Give real-life examples of when or where a carer could add additional peace of mind. Tailor examples to your loved one, and highlight the positive impact professional care will have on each family member too.
Shifting a hypothetical situation into a real one can bring an argument back to a discussion. It can help everyone effectively illustrate their point, and prevent things like blanket statements and statistics someone’s seen in the paper from taking over the conversation.
Look for common ground
If you find yourself stuck debating the same point over and over, refocus the conversation on what you agree on.
Perhaps you’ve all noticed that your loved one isn’t getting out of the house as much as they used to. Or, you may all believe that they’ll be most comfortable at home, even if you’re unsure how to make this happen.
Even when you hold different opinions, a shared value or hope is a welcome reminder that you’re ultimately working towards the same thing.
Wrap up on a positive
f you don’t agree by the end of a conversation, that’s ok. End the discussion by reflecting on the things you have agreed on, or something you’ve learned from it. If something was raised that you’d not considered before, let your family know that you’ll look into it before the next conversation.
These actions will help you start the next discussion on a positive note too.
If things have become a little heated, don’t be afraid to pause the discussion. You may find it best to leave it a few days or weeks so that family members have time to process their concerns and feel prepared to discuss them.
Give a Family Support Specialist a call
If you’re really struggling to see eye to eye, having an impartial expert involved may help bring some clarity. At Elder our specialists are experienced in supporting different family members – whether providing practical advice or offering a listening ear when things get tough.
You can reach us for a no-obligation chat by calling the number at the top of this page, or by booking a call at a time that suits you.