Deeper Listening

The Key to Making Better Decisions

Dealing with parents when our lives today are so busy is a challenge. On top of work responsibilities, we are determined to get the best for our children, which nowadays translates to helping them meet their own busy agendas of after-school karate classes, saxophone lessons, and scheduled play dates. There’s so much to do that even activities like socializing with friends and taking in the latest movie can seem like just another thing to check off your to-do list. Add to this taking care of your aging parents and the pressure of everyday life becomes too much to bear.

I hear the tension and stress in the voices of people who call me. The adult children are up to their ears in dealing with their aging parents. During the initial, complimentary 30-minute conversation, it becomes clear the adult children hope that short telephone call will be the quick fix they’re searching for. Frustrated by their unsuccessful attempts to get a parent to make decisions that would align with their busy lives, the callers want Sage Solutions to help them make their parent “listen to reason,” that is, to do what the children want.

Adjusting your agenda

Sage understands this dilemma; we see it daily. We agree it would be much easier to live in a world where aging parents’ decisions were made to serve the agendas of each adult child, but caring for elders calls upon different skills.

When an elder is experiencing more losses than any prior time in their life, this is a cause for pause. It’s a time to view the world from the elder’s perspective, a time to shelve one’s personal agenda. It can be tough to slow down and take the time to listen to what’s going on inside your parent’s mind, especially when your bandwidth is already stretched to the max. But the fact is that there are some things you simply cannot rush. Caring for an elder requires deeper listening.

Coming through a knothole

A recent experience offers a good example. The children of a woman in her late nineties set it up so Mom could stay at home, but without the daily responsibility of keeping house, arranging transportation, and the like. To the children, this was a good solution for dealing with their aging parent. But, month by month, the woman began to feel weaker, lonelier, and less interested in doing what she used to do.

Sage stepped in and … listened. We understood the children wanted the best for their mother, and they felt they knew what that was. But what did the ninety-year-old woman want? She wanted something different but felt pressured by her kids to make decisions that pleased them.

We exposed the woman to various alternative ways of living. She was able to rule out what she did not want. We then could focus on what she did want, helping hone her options. Ultimately, she realized what she had wanted all along: to be with a group of like-minded peers, spend her days in companionship, and marvel at the beauty of her life. She came through a knothole —she’d been heard. 

Empowering your listening

If you and your elder are butting heads, if coming to decisions seems to be taking forever, I encourage you to pause and listen to what your parent has to say. Try these tools to empower your listening skills:

·         Connect with emotions

·         Be in touch with your body

·         Acknowledge fears

·         Respect elders instead of trying to change them

·         Build on strengths not weaknesses

·         Seek wisdom not faults

·         Check assumptions by asking questions

We all can come through a knothole gently after deeper listening.