Long Beach Senior Home Care Blog

Helpful Hints for Delivering Bad News to Senior Parents

By Stacy Sanchez

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Delivering bad news is tough, no matter who it is. It’s especially tough when you must deliver it to a family member or senior parents. Our tips can help you know how to talk about negative news with honesty and compassion. Read on for more info….

Whether it’s financial problems, onset of disease, a death in the family, or several other topics, there’s never an easy way to give bad news to anyone. If your senior parents have dementia or are otherwise in poor health, the challenge can be even greater.

How to Prepare for Tough Conversations

You should think through the news you need to deliver and do some preparation. The person you are delivering bad news to will also need a moment to be prepared. A very helpful way to get prepared is to write the details of the news down and everything you know about it. Think about the questions that will likely be asked of you and try to get as many answers as you can ahead of time. Reading this info back to a trusted friend can help you clarify your thoughts. Remember—your senior parents or many other elderly people for that matter, are likely far more at ease with issues about dying than we want to believe. The more comfortable you come across with the topic at hand, the better the conversation will go.

A Few Tips When Talking About Bad News with Senior Parents

It’s important to be very clear in your communication. Of course, you need to be sensitive to the needs of the person receiving the news and go slowly if you need to. This is especially true when discussing a death in the family. Use comforting language and encouraging words, reassuring them that you will be there for them.

It can be helpful to consider your phrasing when delivering bad news or sensitive information. It will convey your compassion if you start your sentences with “I.” Consider the following examples:

• I’m afraid I have some tough news to talk about….
• I have something very important to tell you….
• I think we need to discuss a difficult topic….
• I’m hoping….
• I’m fearing….
• I wish I had different news to tell you….

Bad news can have all sorts of reactions, so it’s important to give your loved one the space they need to absorb the information and react however they need to. They may be angry, burst into tears or just have tons of questions. Consider their needs as you deliver the news.

Delivering Bad News to Senior Parents with Dementia or Alzheimer’s

Things can get a little more tricky when dementia or Alzheimer’s comes into play. It’s not uncommon for them to forget a relative has died and they might bring that person up in conversation. This leaves you wondering whether you should constantly remind them that the person is deceased. After all, we don’t want to cause pain over and over. Some people even make the mistake of not telling them about a death at all, thinking it’s the most compassionate thing to do. But seniors with dementia need the truth and they need help processing it, even if it takes several tries. You may have to gently remind them often about the same piece of news.

You may also find that they ask frequently where a person is who has recently died. You might say something like, “They’re ok now. How are you feeling about them not being here anymore?” Often, this will trigger a memory of a previous conversation and allow them to talk about how they feel. You can use that time to remind them that their loved one who has passed on is safe and at peace. Use this time also to reassure them that you will always be there to talk to. Their memories may vary and this may affect how they process bad news.

It’s never easy to deliver bad news to senior parents, but with these tips and a lot of love and compassion, it can be much easier than you think. Contact us today for more information.

Home Helpers of Long Beach is a locally-owned, trusted home health care agency and offers quality, compassionate senior in-home care services including home care assistance, personal care, companion care, respite care, Alzheimer's & dementia care as well as homemaker services in Long Beach, and East Long Beach.