What is your approach and how do you prepare your relative when they are diagnosed with a type of memory impairment or become unable to participate in decision-making? Adult children find themselves in this situation and often need to take greater control in making and carrying out decisions for their loved ones. As a family, providing a united front to address concerns and provide solutions for your relative can make all the difference in obtaining acceptance.
Here are some steps in preparation that will increase a positive impact on how receptive your loved one may be to what they hear.
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 or will making a change enhance your relatives’ quality of life to provide a safer independent lifestyle? Attitude influences one’s ability to be objective and thus, the effectiveness as a decision maker.

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Identify areas where help is needed. Take time to observe and document how well your relative functions in their current environment. 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. How easy are these tasks managed independently? Is their dignity being jeopardized? Now is the time to take action.

Choose the best person & time to talk about change. Sometimes there is one family members who the relative may be more willing to listen to about a concerning situation. Whether it is you, a close friend or their primary physician, being objective and planting seeds will open the door to more conversation.

Introducing ideas slowly may increase the chances for acceptance. There may be several reasons why your relative may refuse help. Try to understand their feelings and fear around change. They may be in denial with their current challenges. Is their fear related to finance or overwhelm about leaving one’s home? Are they against having a stranger (caregiver) in the house or are fearful of losing their independence?

These are only a few objections you may face. Start with one small change at a time and negotiate a trial period. Be sensitive to your relative’s thoughts and feelings on accepting help. Listen to their perspective while offering positive transition solutions. It is important they understand this is the entire family making a transition and that they will not alone during the process.

Sharing your concerns with a family member can be challenging. You don’t have to be perfect and often the seeds you plant will take time to cultivate. Before your approach 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 and support their transition. Have patience, reassure and take baby steps, choosing one task at a time. Your gift is the opportunity to be present in their life.

Kathy Faenzi PhotoKathy 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.