Talking about emotionally difficult subjects

Dr. Caron Goode of Academy for Coaching Parents International interviewed me on her Blog. Dr. Goode asked about my personal story, and on communicating on a couple of touchy subjects. – Below is the interview in its entirety. 

Dr. Caron Goode: What is your personal story? 

Carolyn A. Brent: I became an accidental expert on this topic due to unforeseen circumstances.  For years I tried unsuccessfully to have a conversation with my own siblings about the medical and financial needs of our aging father, then in his seventies, who was suffering from dementia and other medical complications.  Because of my Dad’s failing health I felt I should initiate this conversation since I had an especially close relationship with him.  My siblings just flat out refused to have the crucial conversation with me, each other, and our father. My siblings were simply too busy with their own lives, and so we put it off.  In our case, this led to an extremely bad outcome. 

As a direct result, I have turned my pain into passion in the need to helping caregivers and their families talk about and prepare for end-of-life. I believe if we are prepared it can avoid conflict that will come up when a parent is sick or dying.  I am now spreading the important message that planning is critical, and families must begin talking to one another as early as possible. For the past few years I’ve traveled across the country giving lectures at churches and to members of organizations with an interest in these issues, and I’ve spoken with numerous family caregivers. I set up to disseminate resources to help family caregivers. I’ve gone on radio and television. I’ve worked to pass new laws in Congress. Now I’ve written Why Wait?

Dr. Caron Goode: What are the most charged emotional conversations in families?

Carolyn A. Brent: Money (GREED) has become the most charged emotional conversation in families. When a parent is healthy is the time to select a responsible person even outside the family regarding finances, and who will be the fiduciary.  If the money part of caregiving is resolved early while your parents are healthy the chances are greater that the health care areas are resolved as well. They both go hand in hand.

Dr. Caron Goode: Is there a best or effective conversation technique to open and facilitate the topic? 

Carolyn A. Brent: Relationships can be complicated. It is best to engage in effective conversations and effective communication before you wait until there is a problem. It is best to start having the conversation early, and informal in a relaxed environment.

Through research, I found a great book by (McGraw-Hill, 1999), Phil Harkins defines a powerful conversation as one that advances an agenda, where participants share learning and strengthen their relationship. He believes the most important aspect underlying strong relationships is trust, which can be fostered during and after significant conversations by what he terms the “four Cs”: caring, commitment, clarity, and consistency. Because of this book, I am more mindful in how I share my thoughts and communicate with others.

I hope you enjoyed this interview with Carolyn A. Brent and that you’ll check out her book .


Dr. Caron Goode of Academy for Coaching Parents International

About Carolyn Brent

Dr. Carolyn A. Brent, is an award-winning bestselling author and a National Physique Committee (NPC) Masters Women's Figure Champion at age 60. She is an expert on both self-care and caregiving; she is the founder of Across All Ages and two nonprofit organizations, CareGiverStory Inc. and Grandpa's Dream. Carolyn's research and extensive collection of published works have made her a notable figure in her field. For seventeen years, she worked for some of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies and has worked as a volunteer at various assisted-living facilities. Her award-winning books include The Caregiver's Companion: Caring for Your Loved One Medically, Financially and Emotionally While Caring for Yourself and The Caregiver's Legal Survival Guide: Navigating through the Legal System.

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