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Blog Feature

By: Marissa Salvesen on June 11th, 2015

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How to Discuss Changing Care Needs With Your Aging Loved One

assisted living | caregiver tips | 60-day stay trial | Aging & Caregiving

man_at_the_fence-1Loss of independence is a very real threat to your aging loved one. Unfortunately, as seniors age, their ability to manage previously simple everyday duties may diminish or disappear completely.

"I don't need help!"

What do you do when your aging loved one refuses to accept that his/her care needs are changing? These tips can help you maintain clear, open and productive lines of communication.

Express Yourself...Then Be Prepared To Listen

As your loved one tries to hold on to an independent way of life, he/she may be experiencing a broad spectrum of emotions -- from fear, anxiety, and loss to anger and confusion. While it’s important to acknowledge and validate these feelings, it’s also essential to make yourself heard.

Choose a comfortable and private setting where your loved one feels at home, and lay your cards on the table. If there are specific household tasks or personal hygiene habits with which your loved one is struggling, highlight these concerns in a respectful, accusation-free manner. Then, be prepared to listen. You may be surprised to find out that he/she feels the same way.

It’s Their Call

In some cases, seniors may push back against what they perceive as a lack of control. For example, if you are worried about your father’s financial situation but he objects to your offer to take over the bills, suggest hiring an accountant, instead. He may be more amenable to this approach which allows him to maintain a greater sense of dignity during this time of transition.

When aging loved ones are consistently difficult, however, taking a step back can prevent them from feeling alienated or overwhelmed by your interference. For example, if your father insists on maintaining control of his finances, temporarily table the discussion, but be sure to routinely check in see how he/she is doing. He may be more receptive to the conversation at a later time -- particularly if his inability to keep up leads to late fees and bounced checks.

Find a New Messenger

If you are feeling frustrated and overwhelmed by your loved one’s negative response to any discussion about changing care needs, enlist the help of others. Talk to your loved one’s physician about recommending different options for managing his/her health, home safety, and other concerns. 

If you feel like you are “getting nowhere” in your conversations, ask another family member who has a good rapport with your loved one, such as a grandchild or other relative (perhaps even one who has experience in the healthcare field)  to discuss important issues (such as fall prevention, medication management, or nutrition) in an open, informal way. Many times if your loved one receives information and/or advice from someone else besides a primary caregiver, they may decide to listen a bit more openly.

Remember Your Own Needs

Trying to get an aging loved one to accept the help they need is not always a smooth road, and these conflicts can lead to unexpected stress and frustrations for caregivers. Make sure to build in time for yourself and your own personal commitments and other relationships. While it’s hard to step back from your aging loved one at a time when he needs assistance, taking care of yourself along the way ensures that you will be there when he/she really needs you.

Key Takeaways:

  • Be cautious when trying to offer help and consider your loved one’s need to feel independent and in control.

  • Caregiving is a balancing act with plenty of give and take: make sure to express yourself, but also remember to listen and keep an open mind.

  • While you may have hopes and goals for your parents, allow them the final decision unless safety is an overriding concern.

  • Enlist the help of others when trying to communicate your concerns for health and safety.

  • While attending to your loved one’s changing care needs can be a full-time job, it’s also important to take time for yourself.

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About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

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