Ageing can be difficult to cope with for a number of reasons, whether it’s increasing physical and mental health concerns, feeling lonely or like a burden to others, or your independence and freedom seemingly slipping through your fingers.
In fact, research has revealed that more people fear losing their independence in old age and being forced to move into a nursing home than death, which explains why older people are reluctant to accept help from others. Some of the other biggest fears of ageing include failing memory/onset of dementia, becoming less mobile, feeling lonely or like a burden, and getting certain diseases/illnesses associated with getting older.
The common theme among these fears is clear—Older people don’t want to give up their self-autonomy or way of life. Ultimately, they are afraid that accepting help means that they are giving up their independence, making them feel weak, useless, and vulnerable.
From a different perspective, it can be painful and worrisome for people close to an ageing loved one to watch someone they deeply care about suffer. The worried family members or friends may easily come off as controlling or pushy, as they make suggestions to someone that already is feeling like they are losing control of their lives. However, these suggestions come from a place of love and concern, as they want to assure that their loved ones are being well taken care of and are living in a way that keeps them happy and fulfilled.
The Importance of Understanding Both Perspectives
These conflicting feelings between an elderly person who doesn’t want to be a burden and a loved one who doesn’t want to constantly worry about the well-being of the senior citizen can often lead to a disconnected debate. When neither side takes the effort to understand or listen to the other side, both people can easily get frustrated and more stubborn in their opinions. This can lead to a lack of open-mindedness and ultimately leaves you both empty-handed with no solution.
However, with the right approach to talking about this delicate topic, as well as an equal exchange of thoughts and ideas between the both of you, you can help your loved one reframe the way they think about independence. You can help them realize that getting the help that they need does not mean that they are giving up their independence. In fact, it can actually mean the opposite. Most of the time, getting the help you need actually increases your independence and provides peace of mind to the loved ones that are concerned about you.
Read on to see the steps to successfully having a conversation that reframes your ageing loved one’s mindsets about the meaning of help and independence.
5 Simple Steps to a Meaningful Discussion, not a Debate
1. Start a Conversation (This Means Two-Way Communication)
Because this topic is such a delicate one, it is important to approach it as such. Instead of being accusatory or embarrassing them, it is important to open the door to open communication by easing into it. Do not use trigger words such as care, caregiver, senior living, elderly care, or elderly homes that are likely to bring the conversation to an abrupt end. Instead, ask open-ended, casual questions such as: “Have you ever thought about hiring someone to help around the house?”, “Are you still getting around the house easily?”, or “Where do you see yourself living as you get older?” These questions help give you an idea of where their head is at, as well as an appropriate approach to take when bringing up your concerns about their safety.
2. Express Your Concerns, Coming from a Place of Love and Understanding
Tell them that you’ve noticed that things may have gotten harder for them and that you think they could benefit from some help. Explain to them that you love and care for them and want to make sure that their health and safety are being protected at all times. Because it may be easy for them to get defensive and counter your concerns, it is important to remind them that there are a variety of options out there that will allow them to keep their independence and lifestyle. Tell them that even if they think they are completely fine the way they are now, it doesn’t hurt to have an extra set of helping hands or the addition of a mobility aid in their home, just in case.
3. Offer a Selection of Solutions—Don’t Push
No one likes to feel cornered. The last thing you want to do is make your loved ones feel powerless in a decision that determines the course of the rest of their life. Give a variety of recommendations and possible solutions without being forceful. Gently explain your reasoning and emphasise how these changes will actually increase their independence, not take it away. For example, if your loved ones do not want to move to elderly homes, you can consider looking into elderly in-home care or installing a mobility aid such as stairlifts for seniors. Installing a stairlift chair not only saves money from senior living costs and the process of moving, but it also helps your loved ones regain their independence while keeping them safe. With Acorn Stairlifts, there are a variety of stairlift models for curved and straight, as well as indoor and outdoor staircases so that your loved one can easily get around and continue to do the activities that they love.
4. Listen to What They Have to Say
Remember that older people fear losing their independence and control over everything else. This means that it is crucial that you listen to them and let them know that their opinions are valued. Instead of trying to come back with arguments or counter their thoughts with your own, it is important for you to just sit back and listen to everything that they have to say. Acknowledge and validate their thoughts and feelings and let them know that you want what’s best for them and will respect whatever they decide to do.
5. Give Them Time and Space to Make their Decision and Respect Their Choice
If your loved one is not mentally incapacitated, is not in immediate danger, and is capable of making their own decisions, allow them to do so. Remember that it may take some time for them to think it over so give them some space. Though it can be frustrating, even if they decide that they are not ready for change, respect their decision and recommend that they seek expert advice. Sometimes it takes a medical professional or counsellor to convince them to do what is best for them. No matter what, though, remind them that you love them and want them to do what’s best for them. Remember to not react in anger and be understanding and supportive of them in any case.