What to do when your ageing parents aren’t coping but refuse to talk about it?
5th July 2013
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If you're lucky, your parents will age gracefully and support each other in their old age. Unfortunately it doesn't always work like that. You may have noticed that your father or mother or other elderly relative isn't coping. You are desperately worried about what happens next but they refuse to talk about it. While there are no easy answers, here are some ideas about what to try and what to avoid based on my own experience and that of my clients

Having that difficult conversation – Some Do and Don'ts 


  • Tell yourself that the conversation needs to happen. Try. And then try again
  • Do something different to open up the subject. Talk about how their friends and contemporaries are coping. Use humour or be philosophical about the future
  • Put your own anxieties on one side and try to remain calm – if you are acting in good faith ‘tough love’ may be necessary
  • Try to understand why they are so resistant to discussing the future. See the world through their eyes. Ask them what they worry about
  • Reassure them that you have their best interests at heart. Tell them you are worried.
  • Be gentle on yourself – this can be emotionally draining. Find somewhere to talk through your own feelings



  • Let the subject become ‘unmentionable’.  
  • Turn the conversation into a raging argument. Don't let it become a battle with winners and losers
  • Try and do it all on your own. Bring in other people, especially people they respect. Maybe their GP or a family friend can make it feel less threatening
  • Rush in with solutions and make them feel their views don't count
  • Wait for a crisis to happen. It's harder to put different arrangements in place when action must be taken in a hurry and everyone is stressed out


About the Author

Lesley Trenner

Member since: 5th April 2013

Hi! I've lived in Barnet since I was a student. I'm a trained and experienced 'Change Coach' - I help people handle changes in their lives and in their workplace. I specialise in helping people in their...

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