How to Start the Reduced Mobility Conversation With Your Parents

Adult daughter sitting on a couch having a civil, but serious, conversation with her elderly mother.
Very rarely will you find anyone who actually feels prepared to have a conversation with their parents about their increasing mobility challenges. 

Aging is no easy feat — for your parents OR for you, their child.

As they grow older, your parents may struggle to cope with new limitations that hinder their independence. At the same time, YOU may suddenly have to face some pretty heavy questions:

  • Between you and your siblings, who can (and will) provide what kind of support?

  • Will you need to step into some sort of caregiver role?

  • When’s the right time to start discussing your parents’ decreasing mobility? And how do you even bring it up?

Although we can’t necessarily help you answer the first two questions, we have some tips that will make initiating a reduced mobility conversation a little less difficult.

12 Tips for Initiating a Conversation about Decreased Mobility

  1. Get on the same page with your siblings. Before you approach your parents about the sensitive matter, check in with your brothers and sisters. If you and your siblings agree on an approach, your parents will be more likely to listen.

  2. Set the tone before you even start talking. The last thing you want is for your parents to feel like they’re being bombarded. First, take a moment to level with them, acknowledging that you both want the same thing: to help your parents maintain their independence as much as possible.

  3. Start small. Don’t overwhelm your parents by jumping into the discussion too fast. Begin by asking them casual questions about how safe they feel around the home or when they attempt certain activities. Then, gradually build your way up to a longer conversation about mobility aids and assistance.

  4. Ask good questions. Then, listen! The conversation shouldn’t feel like an intervention — instead, try approaching it more like an interview. Ask them thoughtful questions about their opinions and emotions. Then, give them time to answer before presenting your opinion. Perhaps, they will even ask for your perspective.

  5. Avoid arguing. Don’t let a disagreement build any additional tension within your family. The situation is challenging enough already — a time when you really need one anothers’ grace and patience.

  6. When feeling ignored, ask yourself if it’s REALLY important. Is the matter a safety or health concern? Or is it more of an annoyance or otherwise inconsequential? The old saying sticks — you’ve got to pick your battles.

  7. Let your parents play an active role in the decision-making process. Even though they’re growing older, they are still your parents. Show them a little respect by actually considering how they’d choose to combat their mobility challenges.

  8. Be calm, understanding, & realistic. Try to understand the situation from your parents’ perspective. Be empathetic, but don’t make promises that you just can’t keep. Although your parents may hope to spend the rest of their days in their current home, it may be a bit unrealistic to assure them you can make that happen.

  9. Opt for more “I” than “You” statements. Non-confrontational opinion statements starting with “I think…” or “My view is…” come off a lot nicer than aggressive comments beginning with “You.” It’s funny how just a couple of words can make the difference between a productive and destructive conversation.

  10. Bring in a third party (if necessary). If your parents refuse to have a civil discussion about their increasing mobility challenges, you may need to pull in a third party perspective — perhaps a doctor or counselor, someone they respect and trust.

  11. Take detailed notes. Every time your parents sustain a fall or have some other mobility challenge, take note of it. These notes will come in handy when you need to have discussions later on or update your siblings and other family members.

  12. Don’t expect to resolve all questions in one sitting. To resolve decreased mobility challenges, you’ll probably need more than a single hour-long conversation. Pace yourself. Schedule a follow-up meeting within 3 weeks, though — that way, your initial discussion will still be fresh in everyone’s minds.


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