Women avoid discussing difficult issues with their husbands, often for lack of skill. But difficult issues absolutely should be raised early, while there still is time to make sound decisions. Financial and legal issues are some of the most daunting. In my book, The Caregiving Wife’s Handbook, I suggest that couples update health and financial planning because they may not have created what they thought, or it may no longer fit their situation.
Mary and Mark are a very attractive couple in their 50s. Mark has Parkinson’s disease yet refuses to discuss finances with Mary. She needs to know how they’ll live as he declines, and how she will live after he dies. He says “speak to my attorney.” She feels like she’s going behind his back if she does.
Using learned communication methods resolves concerns. Rather than just accepting Mark’s distressing decision, she learned new ways to compassionately and effectively communicate with him. Insurance advisors will find these tools helpful for speaking with the caregiver about services they can provide, and for helping caregivers communicate with their spouses.
Here are some easy tips to make communication more effective.
- Let the clients keep their opinions, while working on changing their behavior.
- Use reflective listening where you repeat back what they just said, instead of interpreting.
- Use “I” statements, which help you avoid blaming or criticizing.
- Speak “their” language, which means structuring your statements in the way they will most easily understand them. If they are reason- and logic-oriented, for example, you might ask what they “think” about something, rather than how they feel about it.
- Discuss and make agreements.
One of the topics I cover in my book is how to set up a “talking date.” Mary read the book, set up a “talking date” with Mark, and took important steps on the path to creating the right agreements about their finances and making her life and their marriage work during these difficult years.