Listening Carefully

by Joanna Smith on Sep 13, 2010

At Healthcare Liaison we work with people of all ages, so some of our clients are very young (infants) and some are elderly.  I had a call from an older client the other day.  She was concerned because she lived far from two of her children, and close to one of them—but that adult child traveled a lot for work and also had a family of her own.  My client wanted to know what she could put in place to help relieve all three of her children from worry about her.

As I listened to her talk, I realized again what a big part fear plays in the minds of people as they age.  It does not seem to matter whether they are actually ill at this moment:  the conversation is filled with “what if” thoughts and concerns.  “What if my son is traveling when I’m sick?  How will anyone know how to reach him?  What if I need help at home and my daughter is too busy to do it herself?  I live alone:  what happens if I fall and end up in the hospital? “The initial concern about not being a burden was clear, but listening carefully I heard a strong subtext:  “I’m scared and don’t know how I’ll manage.”

Too often I find that adult children take the overt questions quite literally, and try to problem solve, rather than listen to the underlying fears.  The questions listed above are beautiful “openers” to a discussion about the kind of care the aging relative would like to have, where they would like to be cared for and how they envision their death.  These are difficult discussion to have at any time, so adult children can welcome these subtle invitations to talk.  IN ADDITION TO problem solving (by perhaps getting a “medic Alert” button or hiring help at home or someone to check in on a regular basis) consider this an invitation to discuss other topics:

Fears about their care

Setting up notification systems when they become ill

Giving up independence

Advance Directives

Different living options

If you need assistance in having this discussion, we can help!  Contact us to arrange a time to discuss your particular situation:  joanna@healthcareliaison.com or 510-704-8476.