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Talk Today Before Encountering a Crisis Tomorrow

Families with seniors who have emerging needs-those not yet facing more serious age-related problems-are sometimes reluctant to seek help; communication is often the barrier...

Toronto Home Instead Senior Care Franchise Owner Bruce Mahony knows that, unfortunately, it is usually a crisis that begins conversations. Families with seniors who have emerging needs-those not yet facing more serious age-related problems-are sometimes reluctant to seek help; communication is often the barrier. “When there’s not yet a crisis, it’s a slower process for families trying to engage their senior loved ones,” he said. “We see families going back and forth trying to make a decision about what to do.”

“Adult children often over-analyze these situations,” Mahony said. “It’s easy for them to start thinking that their problems are unique. Home Instead Senior Care’s ’40-70 Rule’ campaign really affirms for families that these types of awkward situations – where people have difficulty talking with their loved ones about sensitive subjects – are normal. These conversations are part of a process that all families need to go through.”

Home Instead Senior Care research revealed that independence, including a senior’s need for assistance, often is the source of these sensitive subjects. “In about 30 percent of the cases we see, these types of decisions are made very slowly,” said Chicago¬¨area Home Instead Senior Care Franchise Owner Mike Melinger.

“Starting a conversation about independence issues is like planting a seed. The idea, at first,
might be totally unacceptable to the senior,” he noted. “But after several months, and several more conversations, I’ve seen the idea germinate. That’s why these types of conversations need to start before a crisis occurs.”

Certain ground rules should apply before beginning any conversations with seniors. Here are some suggestions from Home Instead Senior Care and University of Arizona Communication Expert Jake Harwood, Ph.D.:

Get started. If you’re 40 or your parents are 70, it’s time to start observing the situation and gathering information carefully and thoughtfully. Talk with your parents (see the next tip, below), and gather information with an open mind. Until you’ve done so, don’t reach any conclusions or try to decide on potential solutions.

Talk it out. Approach your parents with ideas for a conversation. Discuss what you’ve observed and ask your parents what they think is gOing on.

Sooner is best. Talk sooner, rather than later. Don’t wait for a crisis to occur. For instance, if you know your loved one has poor eyesight or has trouble driving at night, then begin addressing those issues before a problem arises. However, while sooner is better, it’s never too late to start.

Forget the baby talk. Remember that you’re talking to adults, not children. Patronizing speech or
baby talk will put older adults on the defensive and convey a lack of respect for them. Put yourself in your parent’s shoes and think how you would want to be addressed.

Maximize independence. Always try to move toward solutions that provide the maximum amount of independence for a parent or senior loved one. Look for answers that optimize strengths and compensate for problems.

Stay tuned in. If, for example, your dad dies and soon afterward your mom’s house seems to be in disarray, it’s probably not because she suddenly became ill. Rather, it’s much more likely to stem from a lack of social support and the loss of a life-long relationship. Make sure that your mom has friends and a social life.

Ask for help. Many of the issues of aging can be solved by providing parents with the support they need to help them maintain their independence. Resources such as Home Instead Senior Care, Area Agencies on Aging and local senior centers can help provide those solutions.

The 40-70 Rule Guide features communication tips, as well as role-playing situations that can help family caregivers know what to say and when. For a free copy of the guide, just contact your local Home Instead Senior Care franchise office.

Bruce Mahony
Owner – Home Instead Senior Care Toronto


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