A useful guide to speaking with members of your family.
We understand the heartache of watching a loved one age and gradually lose their independence. It can be a difficult and challenging process to go through and this is especially if that loved one is a parent. We know that facing the role-reversal of becoming a caregiver to your own parents is something many of us will go through at some point. The information below should help to make this process easier for both you and your Mum or Dad.
It is important to approach the conversation in a respectful and empathetic manner. There is no simple solution to tackling the topic of ageing. We aim to make the process easier and more comfortable for both parties.
Signs that someone may need help
Ageing is a slow and ongoing process, and we suggest that any conversations around it should be too. Knowing when to begin the conversation about ageing can be challenging. There are things that you can look for with regard to the current capabilities of your loved one. This would include their cognitive and physical abilities.
Keeping an eye out for these signs and monitoring your loved one’s activities and behaviours is important. It can help you to recognize when it’s time to further the ageing conversation.
Common Signs that Family Members Might Need Help:
- Their house isn’t as tidy as it used to be and their belongings are in disarray
- More out of date food in the fridge than usual
- Sudden loss of weight
- Bruises from falls or knocks
- Regularly forgetting dates and appointments that they wouldn’t usually forget
- Not recognising well-known family members on the telephone
- Conversations repeated
- Overfeeding or forgetting to feed pets
- Bills and letters not attended too
- Bumps and scrapes on the car
- Medications not being taken or prescriptions not being filled
- Doctors appointments missed
- Staying in the same clothes longer than usual
- Getting lost in places that they know
- Hoarding and refusing to get rid of unimportant things
- Using walls and furniture to help keep mobile
- Drinking less water
- Struggling with daily chores
Ageing concerns at home
The diminished capabilities can be of genuine concern especially for seniors who live alone. Although independence is important to self-esteem, it must not be at the cost of their safety or their quality of life.
For seniors who live alone, there may be some safety and hygiene concerns. One way to ensure your loved one is coping is to check in on them regularly. If you can’t do it yourself, arrange for someone else to do it for you. Monitor your loved one’s physical and mental capabilities. Check for the commons signs around the house that indicate that help is required.
It may be that any simple concerns around mobility for example might be solved with a chat with an expert. It may be a simple solution such as to get some handrails fitted.
Ageing concerns for your family members when outside the home
Outside the home can be a real area of concern. Driving can be an important issue to discuss with seniors and as soon as concerns arise this should be addressed. If you are concerned about their safety or the safety of other road users, don’t ignore your instincts. Seniors can find it hard to relinquish their license, so how you approach the topic needs careful consideration.
If you don’t have this as a concern because your parent or other family member don’t drive, there are other potential issues. There are the physical challenges of getting around, memory loss and cognitive impairment. These can all lead to seniors becoming lost or confused, even if they in familiar neighbourhoods.
When to start the conversation
It’s important to start the conversation regarding ageing and the issues are started early. This will give you both time to prepare for changes and plan together for the future.
Leaving the conversation until significant problems are already occurring can make discussing ageing more difficult. Introduce the overall topic over a period of time. This may help seniors feel less like their independence is being challenged or taken away. If a decline due to ageing happens quickly, it’s never too late to start a conversation. If your loved one has had a major fall or you’ve suddenly noticed a change in their capabilities, see it as a sign to begin the conversation if it hasn’t already.
You may wish to plan what you will say, especially if your relationship with your loved one is challenging. You could talk to their GP first to seek guidance on how best to care for them and get some advice from them.
How to open the conversation
Opening up a dialogue about your loved one’s physical or mental condition can be challenging. For adult children, it can be confronting to see their parents deteriorating. This makes it challenging to talk about some topics like hygiene. Acknowledging they need help can be difficult for seniors. That they aren’t managing as well as they used to can create feelings of insecurity and a loss of independence.
You may want to research what help is available to be more prepared. Money can often be a concern for both seniors who require care and their adult children. Knowing the costs associated with different options will ensure you are aware of what you are dealing with. There is government and community support available, and this can help you move towards a solution. There are a number of professionals who can also guide you and specialist shops if your loved one wants to remain at home.
When it comes time for your discussion, remember to communicate effectively with your loved one. Have a conversation in private, don’t be tempted to meet at their favourite coffee shop or such like! Maybe start with asking how they are doing. Talk about how they’re managing and gauge their reaction on needing help. Be aware of the language you are using and avoid accusation tones. Working together will allow you to find a solution that satisfies the both of you.
If your loved one doesn’t want to discuss the topic the first time you bring it up, don’t worry. Gently does it and don’t alienate them from the conversation. Instead, give them some time before trying again or consider having someone else talk to them. Their GP may be the best person to raise specific health or safety concerns with them.
Ageing in their own home
For some seniors, ageing in place in their own home can be the best option. However, it’s important to ensure they are cared for, comfortable, and safe, even if they’re still quite independent.
For many, the main areas of concern in this instance is ensuring their safety and comfort. It will probably need mobility and safety aids, such as rails, shower chairs, bedside commodes, walking frames, and perhaps even lift chairs. Others may also need in-home care or support from outside services. Information on how to access in-home care can be obtained from your parents’ doctor.
As your local Mobility aid retailer, we would be happy to guide you through your options. We have a large showroom where you can come along and have a look at the products specifically stocked to help ensure a greater quality of life and the safety of your loved one.
Our team are all highly experienced and their only concern is finding the right mobility and life aids for your senior. We will even come and give you a demonstration, in the home for some of our larger products such as mobility scooters, wheelchairs and beds.