Most of us like to think of the older adults in our lives as indestructible: Dad with his beloved riding mower, tending to his home; Mom in her “Number One Grandma” sweatshirt, driving the grandkids to their soccer game; your favorite aunt, traveling the world. If we’re lucky, though, our loved ones age. And sometimes, the more independent, able-bodied, and strong-willed the older adult is, the more difficult it can be to talk to them about their well-being as they age.
We’ve assembled a few tips and resources to broach the delicate conversation of safely aging in place and staying more connected should something happen. Because your loved ones deserve to enjoy the incredible lives they’ve built—and you deserve some peace of mind.
Determining if an older adult needs help.
The first step is realizing that your older adult needs assistance…because as this AgingCare article affirms, they likely won’t be the ones to tell you! Some of the warning signs, like neglected household responsibilities and personal care, may be easier to spot if you live locally. You can observe other signs, however, like changes in cognition and difficulty keeping track of time, from thousands of miles away. All too often, a crisis like a fall or sudden hospitalization is an adult child’s first clue that their parent needs support. Regularly checking in on their physical and mental abilities before an emergency takes place can safeguard their long-term welfare.
Read a complete list of warning signs on AgingCare.
Navigating a challenging—but necessary—conversation.
It’s not easy to kindly confront a proud person—who has thus far led a capable, multifaceted life—about your concerns. Your loved one may be resistant, angry, or in denial about their situation. They may even tell you that your concern is hurtful. But as AARP so aptly says in this article about addressing a loved one’s denial, “confronting a parent about [their] growing impairments takes courage and the conviction that it’s the most responsible action a loving child can take. That should assuage any guilt over hurt feelings.”
For practical tips on handling this discussion, visit AARP.
Fielding denial from your older adult is one thing. Remaining kind and empathetic, yourself, is quite another. When a loved one refuses to see the whole picture or approach a problem rationally, it’s normal to feel defensive. But try putting yourself in your older adult’s shoes. A survey cited by SeniorsMatter found “more people are more afraid of losing their independence as they grow older than of dying.” Your loved one is likely scared. At this age, they can start to expect a great deal of loss—and if they’re fortunate enough to have you in their life taking care of them, they already have a lot to lose. So approach this discussion with sensitivity, because you’re not just confronting your loved one about their needs, you’re confronting them with their mortality. Patience and kindness is key.
Read this article for strategies on compassionately advocating for your loved one.
Once you’ve had this discussion, approach next steps mindfully. Demonstrate that you truly heard your loved one and have no intention of embarrassing them or depriving them of their independence. This is exactly why we created the Reach: To give the older adults in your life a discreet, stylish way to maintain their self-sufficiency, but keep your mind at ease. Equipped with safety features like fall detection, real-time location awareness, and a one-touch emergency button, the Reach helps you better support your loved one’s well-being—all while supporting their autonomy.