Planning to talk with mom about fall safety? Get your head right first.
Talking with your parents about fall safety can push primal buttons
Like the time your dentist didn’t use enough novocain. Or when your 10-year-old called you by your first name: “I got a B on my test. How was your day, Susan?”
What can you do to keep your cool? A lot depends on your mindset.
You’re concerned about mom’s dizzy spells. But if you go into this conversation fueled by anxiety and righteous logic, you’re going to hit every button in the elevator on the way down.
Use these tips to set positive intentions and realistic expectations – and to get your head right before you open your mouth.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
You know you need to say something. But it’s also common to meet this moment with fear, frustration, and resentment.
“Am I going to be able to keep dad safe? Why is this all on me? Why won’t [insert sibling’s name] help? I don’t want to deal with this!”
If this is the soundtrack in your head, don’t ignore it. These kinds of conversations throw sparks. Showing up with a short fuse you’ve been soaking in gasoline will not help.
The more you can process your feelings before you talk, the easier it will be for you to stay calm and centered.
Think of this emotional work as an act of self-compassion. As we begin to help our parents, it’s not uncommon to trigger deep-rooted feelings. Take care of yourself: If you need professional support, get it.
Don’t Be Put Off by Pushback
Talking about fall prevention is often one of the first conversations where traditional parent/child roles begin to change. Buttons will be pushed.
Don’t be put off when your parents push back. This is a time for a gentle approach and gentle words – not language that creates more tension.
Your goal is to listen, not lecture. To do that, your parent needs to feel comfortable sharing their feelings and concerns. Staying calm will do a lot more to keep everyone talking than thinly veiled frustration and urgency.
There’s Only So Much You Can Do
Let go of the idea that you’re in control. You may be able to influence your parent’s attitude and behavior, but you can’t control it.
You are not dealing with a stubborn child. You’re dealing with another adult, who has a lifetime of experience and preferences, and the right to make decisions about the risks they want to take.
Your parent’s decision may very well be a poor one. You don’t have to like it. But there’s only so much you can do. Persistent nagging is more likely to damage your relationship than change anyone’s mind.
Unless there are credible questions about capacity, accept that your parents make their own decisions, and they are responsible for their actions – not you.
Choose Possible Over Perfect
Let go of the idea that you can keep your parents 100% safe. You can’t. You can say and do all the right things, but you cannot eliminate all risk.
It’s easy to feel there’s always something more you could do. Or that somehow, through sheer force of will, you’ll find a way to save your parent from themselves. Again, not realistic, and ultimately, not helpful.
What is helpful is choosing to accept what is possible over what is perfect. The more realistic you are, the more likely you and your parent will keep talking, instead of shutting down or lashing out at each other.
Empathy for your parent’s feelings and concerns will help you respond with patience instead of reacting in frustration.
It can also help them see you as an advocate, not an adversary.
Stockpile empathy. You’re going to need it. And you can never have enough.
Put yourself in your parent’s shoes. If you have kids, how do you want them to treat you in this situation? Act accordingly. Chances are they’re already taking notes.
Or try this thoughtful take on the Golden Rule: “Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you.”
Focus on Making Progress
Talking about fall safety is a process. It may take a series of conversations and different approaches before mom talks to her doctor about her dizzy spells and dad stops riding his unicycle blindfolded.
Focus on making progress. If all you do is share your concerns, listen to your parent’s perspective, and agree to follow up, you’re off to a great start!
Next week: Conversation starters.
Thaks for caring,
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