How to Talk with Your Parent about Aging and Life Adjustments
As older adults head into their golden years, the inevitable loss of independence that comes with aging can be difficult to accept. As a caregiver, convincing your aging loved one that they could use assistance can be a sensitive matter and stressful challenge. Your aging parent doesn’t want to hear or admit that they need help and that they’re reaching a stage in life where they can’t function completely on their own. Bringing up the conversation of aging, life adjustments and receiving care services can feel awkward or uncomfortable. Fortunately, we’ve got some solid advice that can help you persuade your parent that getting additional assistance will actually help them stay independent.
Pick the Right Time and Place
Don’t bring up a tough subject when your loved one is already upset. Get your parent in a good mood before you try to break the ice about aging and assistance. It’s a good idea to head out, away from the weight of the situation for this type of conversation. Take your parent to a neutral, comfortable location that is free from excessive distractions—try going for a walk around the neighborhood or to lunch at a quiet café.
Approach the Subject with Empathy
Be sensitive and empathetic. It’s important to understand what may be causing your parent confusion or fear. Listen to and validate their feelings. Calm reassurance is key to helping them cope with the reality that we all inevitably lose a certain level of independence as we age. Avoid starting the conversation with your own worries and fears. Venting your feelings to your parent will only overwhelm them more. If you are feeling highly emotional about the situation, talk to a friend or another family member before your approach your older family member. You can also seek outside advice from a therapist or online forum first.
Use Questions to Direct the Discussion
Guide the conversation and lead your parent to solutions. Pose open-ended questions to gain insights into what they’re feeling. Use realistic situations to illustrate potential problems, like, “What if you were taking down holiday lights in the backyard and fell?” or, “What if you can’t keep up with yard work next summer?”. If you can strategically get your parent to do most of the talking, it will help them drive the conversation and the decision.
Offer Practical Options
Do your homework, know what options your parent has available to them in their area. Seeing the range of care options and hearing the specifics can be reassuring. AARP reports that almost 90 percent of adults over the age of 65 prefer to stay in their home for as long as possible and about 80 percent believe their current home is where they will always live. Services that allow adults to remain at home are desired and less expensive. Positioning in home care services over nursing homes and assisted living can make the services seem even more practical.
Introduce Them to the Services Before the Care
Shape care solutions in a way that helps your loved one understand that help will make life easier. Start slow and introduce your aging parent to help around the house first. It will be much easier for your parent to get on board with someone handling their grocery shopping and house work. By starting them with concierge-type services, you help your parent build a trusting relationship with the caregiver service. Once they are comfortable with people coming into their home and helping them handle everyday tasks, they will be more open to receiving personal care from those same people.
Strategically Position the Benefits
Play up the benefits for everyone in the family. Point out that receiving assistance will make their life much easier and give everyone else more peace of mind. By diverting daily chores and tasks to an outside service, it frees up time for all family members. Your parent will have more opportunities to engage in hobbies and activities. Plus, when you and the grandkids come over to their house, you can all simply enjoy visiting with them, rather then doing chores.
Call In a Friend or Professional
Often, an aging parent needs to hear that they need assistance from someone else, besides their adult children. Bring in someone your parent trusts and whose opinion they value. Another relative may be able to provide a similar perspective to yours.. An old family friend who has known your parent for a long time can sympathize with their struggles and open their eyes to how much they’ve changed over the years. A religious leader can guide them to make the right decision and urge them to consider everyone who is being hurt and affected by the situation. A social worker, family physician or friend in the medical field can also provide a professional perspective that adds facts and credibility.
Don’t Blame Yourself
In the end, remember that your parent is an adult who can make their own decision. It’s important to respect their judgment and know when to back off to avoid further hurt or conflict. Don’t feel guilty for bringing up the subject or blame yourself if you fail to convince them to get assistance. Know that you did your best and accept the reality that this stage of their life can be extremely difficult. Just be patient, and try again.
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