Q: I’ve been noticing that my mom is beginning to decline. It’s nothing major, but I think it is time she get some extra help. I’m just not sure how to bring up the conversation. How should I approach this?
This is a very difficult conversation to have with someone you love. Often times the changes in your loved ones condition, whether it’s in regards to their personal hygiene, medical condition, or physical environment are much more obvious to you. Your mom may not even realize the extent to which things have changed. Many seniors are reluctant to accept help and fear loosing their independence, and the ability to make decisions for themselves. Here are a few tips to help start the conversation;
• Less is more when approaching a tough talk with your aging or disabled loved one. Choose your time and place to have a serious conversation. It should be when you are both calm, in a quiet place with no distractions, address only one issue.
• Help her be part of the solution. Ask her advice on how she would handle a situation similar to what you are addressing. Maybe relay that a friend of yours is having this situation with their parent.
• Be firm in communicating your concerns for their safety, wellbeing and limitations of what you are able to do to help.
• Be patient (unless there is a real danger – then act on the side of safety). Change usually doesn’t occur quickly. Be prepared to have several talks about your concerns. LISTEN to what she is telling you and read between the lines.
• Be understanding and supportive of her feelings and situation. Share your concern, admiration and fear – it should come from love rather than authority.
• Think strategically, who does your mom listen to the most? Is it one adult child over another, their doctor, lawyer or accountant? Find out who it is and discuss with them your concerns. Where there is agreement, allow them to broach the subject and offer a recommendation.
If you’re still uncomfortable having this conversation with you mom you can bring in a professional such as a Care Manager who will meet with both of you, or the whole family. Someone not personally involved and yet knowledgeable about such situations and can explore with your mom what her concerns are as well as what her preferences are for future care and how you can best move forward as a family.