Caregiving Conversations: Tips for Talking

Caregiving Conversations: Tips for Talking

It’s safe to say that we all may have tricky caregiving conversations with loved ones ahead. It may be an informal chat, an important discussion or, in your book, it may carry the weight of The Talk.

Many people ask us how to initiate the conversation or how to get their loved one to participate. We’ve offered some Crafty Lead-ins which covered how to bring up a subject or begin a conversation.

Still looming, the task swims in our heads. How will it go? What is my goal (and what are the concessions)? How can I get the other to participate?

Here we cover The Meat: the mechanics of preparation and execution. These are the combined ideas from tried and true methods, and the advice of a communication expert, Helen Moses of Command Communication,  who has some terrific tips to consider as you get down to the nitty gritty of conversation. For good measure, we’ll throw in a little Steven Covey mindset. Let’s navigate the actual conversation, Game Day-style, if you will.

Inside Caregiving Conversations: Preparation

When you think about it, there is a great deal of opportunity in conversation. There will truly be a lot of freedom to maneuver inside, and there are many chances to arrive at agreement, to end up on the same page.

If you’re on the outside looking in, you will see two people who came to the table and set some ground rules. Balanced at the onset, they will proceed in duality and mutuality.

Some of the best ways I’ve found to enter into or lead caregiving conversations begin with preparation by way of contemplation.

Breathe (as in remember to). Seems like a silly consideration, except when some acknowledge that their gut may already be in knots about talking, or their dander is up and they are surely gonna command this one! Such folks are caught up in the outcome before they ever begin.

Take a moment and breathe. You are not on a schedule, and we don’t need to “launch this thing” or “win this thing” or be “the Alpha.” Nor do we need to begin with a one-sided advantage.

Caregiving Conversations, Raleigh-Durham, N.C.Rather, we are prompted to remember two things at this juncture:

1. The person on the other side of the conversation is another human being, and

2. The other person needs a WIN.

Realize:  On the other end of the conversation is another human being. Just like you, they may bring to the table a range of emotions or complete apathy but the starting point is one to one. They have notions and needs just like you.

The other person needs to have a “WIN” in this conversation. 

Seek First to Understandthen to Be Understood.” There you have it, sage advice from Stephen Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Habit 5). If you are like most people, you seek first to be understood. Flip it. Think. What might the other person’s WIN be? Begin with that in mind.

Inside Caregiving Conversations: Execution

Gain agreement (Preparatory).

Beforehand: Collect a “Yes.” In advance of the conversation, collect a Yes or several Yeses. Make a date or confirm it.

“May we sit down this evening?”, or “Are we still on for Saturday to chat?” (about your upcoming medical appointment, helping me to find a financial planner, to go over the information from the assisted livings, the plans for when Tom and I are away). Subtle, but simple agreements. Collect Yeses.

Get comfy. To the extent that you can, know what makes the other comfortable. Is the other party in their favorite chair? Are you both sitting down for coffee or tea? Is it a good time of day for the other person, and is the conversation going to occur in a good place, free of distraction?

Gain Agreement (During)

Agreement opportunities abound inside any caregiving conversations! In fact, that compromise can begin from the onset by taking a minute to level the playing field by agreeing that this may be a difficult conversation. Or touchy, or emotional.

“Gosh, Mom, I feel odd talking about this.”

“Seems weird to have to make a date to talk about showering…”).

Agreement can be gained right there. You are on a level field. There is opportunity to respect each other and any differing positions you may be coming from.

“Frank, we may differ on our ways to achieve this, but I know we can work together for Tammy.”

Agree on a signal to stop. Remember your signal and use it. Katy and her father, an ex-military man, laughingly agreed that if “the going got tough” (one party did not wish to continue) one would salute the other. That signal would then have them pause, and decide together whether to continue. They could agree to continue or return later, or gain more information and return…multiple options.

We are going to drive this Agreement thing home today, is that apparent yet?

Think about the other person’s WIN, and find it (i.e. think about what constitutes a WIN to the other party). While doing so you will likely arrive at what you can live with, too. (A better goal? Find the WIN – WIN.).

“So it’s important to you to remain in your home, safely?” (Collect a Yes.)

“And we could both feel better if we worked out how to do that?” (Collect a Yes.

“I didn’t realize that was a priority, let’s talk about that.” (Okay. Yes.)

Check in from time to time, on the other person or the status of the conversation.

 “Mom, are still feeling OK about this conversation? OK to continue?”

“Tony, that’s a good question, and we are going to figure that out.”

“You bring up a good point, Tom, please tell me more about that.”

“Would you like to keep talking?”

“I’ll bet you never thought we’d be talking about XYZ in such detail; how are you doing with it?”

A concession here, a little compromise there…or just a statement like “Here we are, talking!” or “We’re getting through this, eh?”

Agreement lives here. (Have you uncovered the WIN?)

Agree and Summarize: What have you just discussed, and what were your conclusions, concessions, next steps? Why not go back for some additional Agreement (since you’ve reached pro status now)? Perhaps you just got through something that was new for the two of you. Maybe it was a little hairy. Agree to that. Did a plan come out of this conversation? Gosh, was there Agreement? Terrific! (Celebrate here.)

Return when needed. In the spirit of “wash, rinse, repeat,” it is perfectly okay to return to the conversation; in fact, revisiting caregiving conversations is strongly encouraged. Is someone going to do something as a result of this talk? Can you agree (!) on when to return or resume?

And so we recap:

  • Breathe:  (you’ve got this)
  • Realize: Remember the other (human being)
  • Agreement, preparatory: Level your field. Check your reservations or misgivings at the door.
  • Comfort: Right time, right place
  • Agreement, during: Take the temperature, how’re we doing?
  • Signal: Use it, or just laugh about the fact that you have one
  • Find the WIN: Become aware of what the other person needs
  • Check-in: How’re we doing? Maybe agree that it’s odd-feeling. We can do this. 
  • Agree and Summarize: How will we leave it; what’s next? Any action steps? Return, when?
  • Return: “Talk Early, Talk Often,” as many say.

May your conversations be fruitful and frequent. Many happy returns.

Need to HAVE THE CONVERSATION with a loved one? NAVIGATE NC frequently provides facilitation or coaching to our clients along these lines. Let’s sound it out. CONNECT WITH US [link www.naviagtenc.com] or call us at 919.628.4428 to schedule a Complimentary Consultation regarding your family’s needs.

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