Many adult children tread lightly when it comes to the health of an aging loved one, especially when it could threaten independence. And, sadly, it often takes an incident of some sort before families feel that "enough is enough" and have the confidence to face a health issue head-on. So what can families do for a loved one when it becomes apparent that their health is declining and/or their safety is at risk? With the help of AARP, we have a few strategies that families can try to approach these sensitive situations as delicately as possible. According to the AARP, here are several strategies children can use that can ensure a parent's safety but also appeal to his or her pride:
- Empowerment. It is crucial for an adult child to show his or her parent that they are allies, not adversaries, and that the child fully supports the parent's desire to live independently as long as possible. But the child should suggest that accepting help would allow the parent to do what he or she wants and maintain self-sufficiency. If the parent would receive help mowing the lawn, then it could conserve energy for trimming hedges, whacking weeds or pursuing another interest. With the boost of helping hands, we all achieve more and go further. We become more, not less.
- Enablers of Growth. Emphasize the giving that is inherent in receiving: Many adult children who take care of their parents mature personally and spiritually from the experience. When aging parents allow their kids to be their caregivers, they are intentionally giving them that opportunity to learn and grow. In contrast, aging parents who protest that they don't want to inconvenience their kids and refuse to allow them to be helpful actually deprive their children of this growth experience. The child can make this point by explaining how much it would mean to him or her if the parent would receive help. The kid could further stress how mom or dad took care of their parents and how it gave them pride to do the right thing.
- Role Model Reminder. Receiving care graciously is equivalent to getting old gracefully: As youngters, adult children learned from observing their parents about how to prepare for and handle life's challenges. As middle-aged people, those same children learn from watching their parents about handling the losses at the end of life. Children must make it clear they are watching their parents and care. If parents can accept this care, it would provide children with a model of graciousness despite obvious physical and mental issues. If the parent persists in refusing help, it only teached the chid to fight old age rather than embracing it. A parent's acceptance of help would help his or her child in the future.
These situations are not easy for anyone involved, but a plan is always good to have. Consider your loved one's values and wishes and, whenever possible, have open conversations about these things. In that way, once a situation arises, you are all better informed and feel more confident in finding a solution that honors your loved one.