Keeping the health conversation going

Your follow-up conversations can help you and the older adult work together on health tasks.

Follow-up conversations can be good opportunities to:

  • Share and discuss new information

  • Weigh the pros and cons of different options

  • Ask if the older adult's needs or feelings have changed

  • Involve professionals, family or friends whose opinions you both value

If you and the older adult agree on next steps during your first conversation, it can be easy to start the next one. For example: "Did you talk with the pharmacist about getting pre-filled pill boxes?" or "Here's what I found out about medical alert buttons."

If the first conversation didn't end with clear plans, there are other ways to start a follow-up discussion. You might want to:

  • Build on a specific point from the previous discussion: "You said your doctor isn't the easiest person to talk to. Why is that?"

  • Discuss a different health topic: "I know you want time to think about your end-of-life preferences, but do you know who you would want to make medical decisions, if you couldn't?"

  • Try to understand the older adult's point of view: "You said you don't want to get a hearing aid. Why? Is it the cost?"

  • Explain why this is important to you: "It may seem like I'm overreacting, but a medical emergency could happen anytime. I want to make sure you get the care you want if that happens."

  • Highlight how health might affect other things: "You mentioned that you're having trouble seeing at night. Having your vision checked could help you with driving."

  • Space out conversations: It's been a few weeks since we talked about having a pharmacist go over your medications. Do you still think that's a good idea?"

Encourage the older adult to share thoughts and opinions by asking open-ended questions like, "Are any health tasks difficult or unpleasant for you?" If you ask lots of "leading" questions - like "Wouldn't you feel better if I come to your next medical appointment?" - it can seem like you're just trying to get the older adult to go along with what you want.

Try to have smaller, more frequent conversations, rather than a few big ones. That gives you both time to consider options before you discuss health topics again.

Avoid launching into a health conversation every time you talk with the older adult. Try to balance the "serious" talk with time simply enjoying each other's company.