The idea that your parents may need more help than you can provide is not an easy one to come to terms with. Assisted living is a touchy subject, and for some cultures, it can feel like a taboo subject altogether. But while the topic is a sensitive one, sometimes it’s a discussion that’s necessary. In the second part of our blog series on How to Start a Conversation About Mobility, we tackle how you can prepare for The Talk.
As discussed in our previous blog post, you may choose to bring up the topic of physical decline at any time. In some situations, touching on the subject early and often could gradually help your parents get used to the idea over time. However, you may want to first assess whether or not your parent needs additional care lest you get uninvited from family game nights and family dinners for nothing. Take a look at Part 1 for more information on what to look out for.
Discussing Age-Related Decline & Mental Health with Your Parents
Discussing age-related decline with your parents is never easy or pleasant. You’ve always thought of them as strong, independent people and it can be scary to see them in any other light. On the other hand, your parents have taken care of you and watched you grow up your entire life and it can be awkward for them to find that the roles have suddenly been reversed. Be mindful of how strange this conversation can be for both of you and be kind, empathetic, and careful.
In our digital age, some health and safety concerns can be addressed or alleviated through the use of smart technology. Consider discussing the installation of such devices around your parents’ house and have the patience to teach them how to use it. Removing the need to walk over to turn the lights on or off could greatly reduce the chances of your parents getting hurt. Smart virtual assistants like Siri or Alexa can also function as a digital companion or help your parents find information, listen to music, or make calls, providing more engagement, helping them stay connected to the things they love, and allowing them to stay independent. Let them know how the pros outweigh the cons.
Health and safety aside, it’s also wise to discuss mental health and well-being. Remember that, for some older people, they may not see mental health as a real problem, so try broaching the subject from a perspective they can understand. For example, instead of asking them if they feel depressed, you might ask if they’ve been feeling lonely? Listless, or sad? Have they lost interest in the things they love recently? Do they have trouble concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions? Are they overcome with fatigue?
Starting the conversation can be the hardest part of addressing the issue. Family dynamics always vary, but typically, it’s better to look for an opportunity to bring up the subject instead of just jumping in. Keep the conversation natural and neutral. Don’t try to take control or force an opinion.
Dealing with a sudden role reversal in parent-child relationships can be difficult for many parents. First and foremost, they will always think of you as their child, and this is natural. This line of thinking—combined with other issues—often means that they will be reluctant to listen. If you feel yourself getting frustrated, put yourself in their shoes and think about how you would feel if you were forced to confront your own mortality.
It’s important to remember that ultimately, you need to be an advocate for their health. This is particularly important when mental or physical decline starts to impact their ability to advocate for themselves. Although they may be stubborn or resistant to your help, you need to know when to keep pushing and when the conversation needs a break. Remember to separate your needs from the needs of your parents—this is about them.
If you can, get the rest of the family on board to discuss your options. Be compassionate and firm in explaining what you believe is best. If you’re unsure what your options are, talk to your local mobility experts to find out where to get started.
At Leading Edge Mobility, we believe that independence is a right we take for granted. In light of the COVID-19 virus, all of us—young and old—know more than ever that the ability to go about your daily routine is an essential component of our well-being and mental health. For many of our customers, this is an issue they face every day, and that’s why we’re passionate about providing tailored solutions to every mobility problem. If you’re looking to be pointed in the right direction or are wondering what areas of your parents’ house could be improved, we’re here to help. Our in-home assessments help us determine which products (or combination of products) will help you maintain the highest level of function so you can go about your day as usual. Contact us today and let us know how we can help!