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.