When Not to Coach

I'm sitting with my father. He's 93. Health failing but still fighting.

Maybe you've been there -

That time when you need to make plans for an elder. When you're no longer the child. You're the parent now. It's on you.

I want to respect his wishes.

I want to preserve his autonomy and agency.

So I do what I do best - professionally that is - I coach. I ask. I listen.

I say,

'What kind of thing might work best for you here dad?' and

'How would you like to deal with...?' or

'What options shall we consider?"

Different ways of telling him 'How can I help you do this for yourself?'

He struggles to answer. Frowns. Takes time to think. Is not that sure really. Gets confused. Fuzzy. Tired.

Open questions need effort don't they. You create an answer from scratch. No one does it for you.

You make something new - the answer. But it takes energy. It takes effort to do that. More effort than saying yes or no or maybe.

He doesn't have the energy for open questions any more.


I try again.

"Dad, shall I take charge of ... for you?'

"Dad, would you like A or B?"

"Dad, I'm going to ... - does that work for you?"

He answers quickly and confidently. He seems relieved that I'm taking some of the load. But not all of it. Yet.


This works for me because I get to control the questions.

It works for him because he keeps control over the answers.

It works for us because we share the thinking.

I suppose eventually I'll ask and answer all the questions on my own.

But at least then I'll have an idea of how he would like them to be answered.