Those who grew up in the 70’s remember the war protest chant, “Hell no….We won’t go!”. It seems that those same rebellious adult children now hear a similar protest when they approach their aging parents about getting help at home. The 1970’s protest chant was a result of forcing people into a situation they did not want. Does this sound familiar?
It’s a fact that most people view themselves as being 15-20 years younger than they actually are. By refusing to recognize the balance issues, driving impairments, or deteriorating living conditions, the elderly parents are putting themselves at risk.
For the adult children it is stressful balancing their parent’s safety yet respecting their decisions. It can be difficult for adult children to understand why their aging parents are being defiant. Some of the defiance may be the result of anger. It’s human nature to want to blame someone when things go bad. But with aging issues there is no one person to blame. Still, some defiance may the result of losses. As people age they experience losses. Not only in the form of deaths, but also loss of mobility, independence, and sound reasoning.
Approaching a loved one about needing help can be very uncomfortable to say the least. Here are some tips that can make the conversation go smoothly:
Discuss with other siblings what the outcome of the meeting will be. If the concerns are not urgent, then it is OK to say that; likewise, if the concerns are urgent it needs to be stated.
When speaking to aging parents it is best to focus on what they can still do, not what they can’t do. Encourage them to continue what they can do, and to accept help with tasks they cannot do. Most people fear being stuck away and having someone do everything for them when they are quite capable of some tasks themselves.
Timing of the conversation is crucial. Do not wait until there is a crisis to have the discussions. Trying to force a decision immediately seldom works. It is best to put a deadline on the calendar to come back and re-visit the discussion allowing time to process the information.
All family members need to be in “the same mind” for this discussion. If other family members are not in agreement, these members will work to undermine the efforts of others. To bring everyone to a single mindedness, family members can meet beforehand to discuss their feelings. If need be, a third party can mediate this meeting to keep emotions in check.
When talking with parents, identify the concern and then offer alternatives. If the concern is nutrition, offer to enroll them in the meals on wheels program. If the concern is housekeeping, offer agencies that provide housekeeping services. When to concern is transportation, offer what is available in the community in the forms of public or private transportation.
Once the conversation is ended don’t expect your parents to jump for joy. Be patient, listen, and write down their concerns. Then practice active listening skills to make sure what they are saying is accurate. Set a date to come back and re-visit the discussion. Many times change is hard to accept but with deadlines and frequent encouragement change can happen.