As we age, our abilities change. It takes longer to walk from one room to another, we become more likely to forget why we walked to the other room, and there’s a massive shift in family dynamics. As children often transition from cared for to caregiver, it becomes difficult.
There are all types of issues that come up from financial to social and physical to emotional. All of that feeds into a change of roles. This is particularly challenging when a senior is dealing with memory loss, cognitive decline, and resent their need for assistance.
What’s important to understand is that memory loss may be entwined with dementia and that one of the first symptoms that appear is a personality change. So, if your senior parent resents the need for assistance or is adamant, they don’t need help and gets snippy with you, it could be more than just normal cognitive decline at play.
It’s easy for cognitive issues to go unnoticed for some time as forgetfulness can be written off or explained away. The brain changes that dementia brings often present as changes in personality so be aware.
Let’s take a look at tips for helping seniors deal with the fact that they do need help. While these tips might not apply or assist you in every situation, they should provide you with a guiding light to navigate your new normal.
Listen & Practice Acceptance
When you sit down to discuss this with your senior it’s important that you actively listen to what they have to say. Do not interrupt, do not chime in, do not fill periods of silence. Let them have the time and space to formulate their feelings into a response. You will get your turn to speak.
It doesn’t matter how close you are, no one is going to agree 100% of the time. You have to respect their opinion just as you want them to respect yours. Don’t just disregard them, look for compromise.
Speak Clearly & Do Not Condescend
Getting older is difficult, no one wants to face up to their mortality. When you speak to your senior about the potential help they need, be calm, speak gently, but deliver your message matter of factly. If necessary, speak louder so they can hear you but do not shout. Enunciate, take it slow, and focus on one message at a time. You want to keep it short, simple, and sweet. If you’re still struggling to get your message across, try different words or phrase it differently.
There is a balance to strike here, though. If you speak too loudly or slow your speech too much you may appear condescending. Do not speak to them as though they are a child as this is the most likely way to trigger an argument.
You should also be wise in the environment where you have the conversation. It should be done face to face with no distractions. If it is a group conversation your senior should be in the middle of it so that they can clearly see and hear everything going on.
Choose Your Battles
Your goal is to protect the well-being of your senior. However, for the senior, it can be embarrassing and frustrating, especially if there are multiple issues at play. Be mindful of their challenges and prioritize the issues and work through them that way. You can celebrate one victory at a time and it gives them the space to process what is going on and the time to consider their future.
Think about how you would feel in their position. We all grow older and we all want to keep some control over our lives. We want to control our environment and ourselves and it can be deeply frustrating to communicate with someone on the decline who still wants to assert their autonomy. Whatever decisions need to be made, they should be involved in every conversation that takes place. People are more likely to feel in control when they are involved in the decisions. The effort you make to include them helps them feel more in control of their life and the decisions that are being made for their wellbeing.