Saturday, May 14, 2011

Advocating for an Aging Parent? Choose Your Words Wisely

The eldercare field would do well to learn from hotels.

In a well-run hotel, staff bend over backwards to anticipate needs. A forgotten toothbrush? No problem. A special birthday? A birthday cake arrives at the door. But in your parent's physician's office, hospital, nursing home or other care setting, you're on your own. At their dizzying pace, health care staff can't read your mind to see what you or your parent needs.

To combat frustration, try these simple words: "Could you tell me...?"

As in "Could you tell me approximately how long we'll wait to see the doctor?" Or "Could you tell me when my parent has a change in his or her medical condition?" Or "Could you tell me the signs a person exhibits when death is imminent?"

When you ask in a direct, yet friendly way, "Could you tell me why I've seen the call lights flash more lately?" or "Could you tell me why my mother's bed was wet this morning?" it's obvious you want an answer. You're not whining, or complaining; you're asking.

Even if the answer isn't what you want, your friendliness will cause the other person to take notice of your concern and address you with respect. Your positive attitude will pay off in many ways, including making life better for your aging parent.

"Could you tell me...?" has worked in addressing medical professionals involved in my own aging parents' care. I've also seen my clients use these words with me, with remarkable success.

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