Communicating with an Assertor About Health Issues
Aging assertors can be difficult to care for. They’ve spent their lives as leaders. They’ve defined themselves by goals, improvement, and results. They have strong opinions, value honesty and efficiency, and enjoy activity. When you communicate with an assertor, particularly about any health concerns, it can help to keep their ‘CEO personality” in mind as you present outcomes and options.
For an assertor, failing health can feel like a betrayal. Suddenly, they’re dependent upon help from others. They have to wait for other people. They can’t order their body to function properly, and they can’t control outcomes anymore. Because they’re struggling with how their changing health conflicts with their identity, they may come across as impatient or cranky. However, if you communicate effectively, you can help your assertor make good decisions about their health care.
Discussing Health Concerns with an Assertor
There are as many different varieties of health concerns as there are people, and no two situations are exactly alike. However, most health concerns fall into one of the following categories.
General Tips for Communicating with an Assertor
- Be factual and accurate, don’t exaggerate.
- Be straightforward and ask challenging questions, don’t tiptoe.
- Use simple language that educates them on their condition.
- Have structured conversations with tasks/goals for managing conditions and maintaining health.
- Use formulas. List behaviors and results.
- Have conversations in a timely fashion. Don’t rush.
- Stand your ground. Be strong and confident.
- Use non-debatable ‘I’ messages rather than judgmental ‘You’ messages.
- Remember that you don’t have to agree.
- Keep them active in the decision-making. Give them guides that they can follow and manage on their own.
Better Communication Means Better Health for Assertors
Health issues are an emotional and stressful topic for aging adults and their families. It’s important to remember that even though your assertor’s health status is changing, they’re still used to being a ‘CEO-type.’ Allowing him to take charge of fact-based conversations and making as many decisions as possible will help him remain open to communication even as you discuss difficult or embarrassing topics. When your assertor takes a lead role in health decisions, she also makes it easier for you to care for her. She’ll be more likely to comply with the plans you make together, and she’ll be happier because she’s CEO of her healthcare team.