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Talking about health with family can be a difficult subject. No one wants to hear that they are anything less than 100% healthy, so it can be frustrating and near impossible to talk about it with older parents.

It can also be difficult or disheartening to talk about your own health with your family members—it’s common to feel embarrassed or nervous about discussing personal subjects like your health with anyone.

However, the holidays may be a perfect time to have these tough conversations, if you can do it in a constructive way. Here are some tips for keeping health talks positive and effective.

If you need to talk to family about their health…

It can be scary for older people to discuss their health, especially with their children, but there are several ways to have a constructive discussion:

  • Keep it private: It’s critical that you keep conversations about health in private. Wait until there’s a quiet moment where you can pull your family member aside and ask if they are able to talk for five minutes. Even it becomes a longer conversation, the prospect of a short conversation is much less intimidating.
  • Come prepared: If you suspect your parent is having specific health problems, bring them information. You don’t need to throw tons of pamphlets at them but let them know you’re invested in helping them with whatever is going on. It can be extremely difficult for older people to navigate health treatment, especially if your family member is not comfortable with the internet. Make it clear you are there to help in any way you can.
  • Respect their boundaries: If your family member is not receptive to the conversation, let it go for the time being. Forcing  the issue will not be helpful, and that could lead to resistance. Table the discussion for the time being and bring it up another, quieter time—the holidays might be too busy and stressful for many people to talk about health issues.

If you need to talk to family about your own health…

It can be nerve-racking. Asking for help from your children can be difficult and might hurt your sense of pride. However, your health is the most important thing and your family wants to help you. Some tips for talking to your family members about your health:

  • Be honest: If you know you have certain health issues, you need to disclose them in full. If you are having trouble hearing, or if you have shortness of breath, or if you notice that a joint has been hurting nonstop for months—your family needs to know all the details. Giving them all the information will make it much easier to find solutions.
  • Don’t be afraid of help: If you have a good relationship with your family, you’ve likely helped them out a lot. Now it’s their turn to help you. Don’t reject offers of help—whether it be financial, or informational, or simply a grandchild offering to give you a ride to the doctor. Everyone wants to see you healthy.
  • Do your research: If you’re comfortable using electronic resources (and if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably a whiz on the internet!), then do some preliminary research that you can bring to your family about your issues or symptoms. Show that you’re invested in learning all you can and keeping yourself updated on your own health.