My daughter and I recently visited my mother at her home in Kentucky. My mother is 89 (will be 90 early next year) and is concerned about who will “pay her bills” (take care of her) in the remaining years of her life. It was an invitation for an understanding conversation, which my daughter and I accepted.
Like many people her age, my mother can’t really imagine that she won’t always be a fully functioning adult right up to the end. So she hasn’t really considered her options, what they involve, who could assist her, where she might go, etc. – all the things that understanding conversations consider. So over lunch, we talked about what some of the options and some of the down sides. Since understanding conversations are two-way interactions, we listened to her concerns, objections, and questions, not to dismiss or resolve them, but to fully understand them. There were times in the conversation when neither she nor I liked or agreed with what the other had to say. But understanding conversations aren’t intended to convince the other side or to get your way, they are intended to have people understand what is involved in accomplishing something of interest to them.
As a result of this conversation, I now understand more about my mother’s concerns and what needs to be taken into account moving forward. My mother also knows more about her options and at the end of the visit thanked me for helping her come up with a plan for who would pay her bills. We will need more understanding conversations before we get to the point of taking action, but we have begun and though it may be frustrating, the conversations are important for understanding how she wants to complete her time here.