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The holidays are a wonderful time for families to gather and share in memories and traditions. However, meals around the table can also spur on questions about the health of our aging family members.

“Did Dad almost trip coming up his own front step?”

“Did Nanna look this frail last year?”

“Does Uncle Stu seem more forgetful?”

Family gatherings can shine a light on deteriorating health in our loved ones and be an opportunity to discuss senior care options from in-home care to assisted living.

What are signs your loved one needs help?

Some of the most common signs of concern include*:

  • Changes in mood or extreme mood swings
  • Cluttered, dirty and/or disorganized house
  • Disheveled clothing / poor personal hygiene
  • Expired/spoiled groceries
  • Confusion and uncertainty when performing once-familiar tasks
  • Forgetfulness
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Trouble getting up from seated position
  • Unexplained bruises

How to start the conversation?

As with many difficult topics, beginning the discussion is often the hardest part. Open-ended questions are the best way to encourage them to talk. Sit back and really listen to their answers.

These conversation starters may help:

  • How is it living at home alone? Do you still feel safe? (OR give specific examples i.e. Are you concerned about the stairs? Do you have trouble getting into the bath?)
  • Do you feel lonely sometimes? Would you like to spend more time with people your own age?
  • How do you feel about driving? Would you be interested in other options for transportation, so you don’t have to worry about getting where you need to go, car maintenance costs, traffic, parking, etc.?
  • Is it ever hard to manage your finances and keep up with paying your bills?
  • Ever wonder about getting a helping hand with housekeeping and laundry?
  • Would you feel less stress if you didn’t have to worry about the house?

Speaking to your aging loved ones about care options can be difficult, starting the conversation is the first step. Multiple conversations may be needed to understand your loved one’s needs and wishes AND balance those with the best options for a safe, comfortable and fulfilling lifestyle. Remember these tips to have a helpful conversation each time:

  • Talk in person. This isn’t a conversation to have by telephone if you can avoid it. Instead, pick a day when you and your parent are well-rested and relaxed. Block out a time and a location where you can talk without interruption.
  • Empathy, not sympathy. No older adult wants their child to feel sorry for them. But empathy is another matter. Your kind, calm voice and demeanor will show you care – and that you’re trying to understand the fears and frustrations they may feel. The idea of accepting in-home care or moving to a senior living community is tough. You begin to help as soon as you really begin to listen.
  • Don’t rush. Once you’re armed with knowledge, you may feel ready to make a decision. But your parent may need more time. Allow them the time they need to find the words to express how they’re feeling. Coming to an unpressured mutual agreement now will continue to pay dividends as you move forward together.
  • Plan to talk again. And again. As much as you might want to wrap things up in one conversation, the reality is this will likely be a series of talks. Unless your aging family member is in eminent danger, that’s okay. It’s a process, not a once-and-done discussion.

*Signs Loved One May Need Help sourced by A Place For Mom. (link https://www.aplaceformom.com/planning-and-advice)