The inevitable transition from independence to increasing reliance on others can be incredibly difficult for all involved, so well thought out plans can make a huge difference. If you are an adult child who is increasingly helping an aging loved one with various activities of daily living or taking greater control in making decisions for them, here are some key things to do to get the ball rolling toward making necessary change.

Know your purpose and motive before opening a discussion with your relative. It is important to understand your reason for introducing change. Ask yourself, is it for your own self- interest to avoid worry and stress? If you find yourself fielding multiple 911 crisis calls or providing personal care, meals or other services to the extent that it is negatively affecting you or your own family or livelihood, then changes need to be made. Will making a change enhance your relative’s quality of life as well as your own?

Identify areas where help is needed. Take time to observe and document how well your relative functions in their current environment. How easily are daily tasks managed independently? Self- neglect with personal care, wearing the same clothes daily, not taking medication, dramatic loss of weight, confusion and increased isolation are just a few changes in condition that effect overall health and lead to physical and mental decline. Is their dignity being jeopardized? If so, now is the time to take action.

Choose the best person & time to talk about change. Sometimes your loved one is more willing to communicate with someone other than you about a situation you consider concerning. Whether it is you, another family member, a close friend or the primary physician, the person tapped to talk about making changes must be objective and able to plant seeds that open the door to more conversation. Families who come together to address concerns and provide solutions can make all the difference in the world. Once you have identified the areas where help is needed and chosen your spokesperson, pick a date and time to have an opening conversation, put it on the calendar, and then do it.

Plan to introduce ideas slowly to increase acceptance for change. There could be several reasons why your relative may refuse help. Pledge to try to understand their feelings and fear around change. They may be in denial of their current challenges. Is their fear related to finance or worry about possibly having to move to assisted living? Are they against having a stranger (caregiver) in the house or fearful of losing their independence? These are only a few objections you may face.

Start the conversation with the obvious. Tell a cognitively impaired relative what you have learned about what to expect with memory loss and how to obtain the resources they need to best cope. If the problem is physical rather than cognitive, tell them what is concerning you and how you want to help make sure they get the assistance they need to stay active and independent. It is important they understand this is the entire family making a transition and that they will not be alone during the process.

Again, be sensitive to your relative’s thoughts and feelings on accepting help. Listen to their perspective when offering solutions. They should not feel bullied! Approach this subject as any other that requires a plan of action. Setting goals together helps your loved one retain some of what we all want: control.

Start with one small change and negotiate a trial period. Working with your loved one to identify the areas where help is needed and setting goals together make it likely that you will have a very positive response when you suggest making the change on a trial basis. Set an appropriate time limit to test how the change is working and at the end of the trial discuss it with them. Some aspects may need to be tweaked. However, if the overall experience is good, small successes give people the courage and energy to go for more. Make another small change and assess it with your relative as before. Inevitably, the time will come for a larger change and previous success will make that easier.

Sharing your concerns with a family member can be challenging. You don’t have to be picture-perfect and often the seeds you plant will take time to cultivate. Before you approach your loved one, remember to set your intention then focus your attention on connecting with a loving, caring and compassionate rapport. Be conscious of your voice tone, tempo and body language. Honor your relative where they are in their journey, have patience and be reassuring, Take baby steps by tackling one change at a time. Your gift to yourself is the opportunity to be present and helpful to someone you love.

Book a date and time with me for your FREE 15 minute Get Acquainted Call.

Kathy Faenzi - Head ShotKathy C. Faenzi MA is a Clinical Gerontologist and Senior Care Consultant based in San Mateo, CA.

JC Spicer, M.Ed. is a Freelance Social Science Writer and Developmental Editor based in the U.K.