Tip 1: Talk together
Use your time together this winter to find out what they are thinking and feeling. Your relative may be keen to reassure you that they are fine and don’t need any support or help, even if you think they do. There are many reasons why this happens, including:
- They may not want to worry you or to be a burden.
- Ageing is an organic process. Your relative may not realise that they are accommodating some of their own (or their home’s) limitations.
- They may worry that by admitting that they need some help that they will have to move out of their home. [With some small adjustments this is often not necessary]
- Genuinely though, they may be fine – it might be you that is worrying!
The Press certainly doesn’t help, with its often negative stereotyping of age and dependency in old age. And so, your relative may be genuinely frightened of losing their independence. Moreover, they may feel they are losing recognition for who they are and what they have achieved in their lives.
A wise, green-fingered 90-year-old friend of mine has a saying that rings true for most circumstances:
‘You can’t move a plant before it is ready. If you do, it won’t thrive ….. it is just the same for people’
Your loved-one is an individual with choices
Asking open questions and listening to your relatives hopes, plans and aspirations for the future is a great starting point.
You may think that your relative would benefit from a little extra help around the house or other forms of support. But remember, it is better to discuss this with them and allow them to make the decision to themselves.
Sadly we have seen so many older people being spoken to as if they are a child, or don’t have a valid opinion of their own. It rarely works well when people try to force ‘solutions’ onto an individual that is living independently.
A little posititivity goes a long way….
If you have ‘heard the stories a thousand times already‘, that may be because they cherish that part of their life. Try asking them more questions about the story, you might be surprised about what else you learn!
By focusing on the positive side of your loved-one’s life, you are showing them that you recognise them as an individual and not as a ‘problem to fix’.
This is the same when it comes to the here and now. Focus your conversations on what your relative can do and what they enjoy rather than asking or telling them what they can’t do.
Engage your loved one in positive conversations about their lives. Ask open questions that allows them to tell you what they love to do, and perhaps what they would like to do in the future. They may even tell you what they can’t do anymore.
If they do open up to you, resist the temptation to dive in with a solution that you think is best. Work with your relative to explore the options available.
If you aren’t sure what to do next, call your relative’s GP or their Local Council’s Adult Social Services team. Everyone has a right to ask for a Social Care Needs Assessment.