When you first think of a hard conversation that you need to have with family members, you may be concerned with sensitive topics like finances, housework, or maybe even current events and politics. While these are all important discussions, one conversation that rarely takes place soon enough is the one regarding an aging loved one’s safety at home.
Too often this topic is only discussed after an accident or emergency jeopardizes your loved one’s ability to continue living on their own. But having this hard conversation with your family as soon as you notice signs that your loved one is struggling at home can help to ensure their safety and wellbeing as they age.
Signs an Aging Loved One Needs Help at Home
Due to factors like certain medical conditions or limited mobility, your loved one’s ability to live independently can, unfortunately, change very suddenly. That’s why you must always be vigilant and look for the signs that your loved one’s health and safety at home is not at risk.
Although these specific markers vary in each individual, there are some common signs you need to be aware of, including:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Spoiled groceries in the fridge or cabinets
- Expired medications
- Difficulty walking across a room
- Cluttered rooms and walkways
- Neglected personal hygiene
- Withdrawal from social activities or hobbies
- Increase in accidents
Should you notice any of these signs, now is the time to discuss your concerns with your family -- before a serious accident or medical emergency occurs.
The Best Way to Start a Conversation About An Aging Loved One
It’s difficult to know the best way to start a conversation with family members about an aging loved one, which is one reason why the discussion is often delayed. Just remember, however, that it’s always better to be proactive than reactive, especially when it involves your loved one’s safety at home.
If you’ve noticed signs that your loved one’s safety is at risk but are unsure of how to start this hard conversation with your family, here are some tips:
1. Involve the whole family. Since your loved one’s wellbeing impacts everyone equally, pick a day, time and place that works for your whole family. If a family member lives far away, involve them in the discussion by using a speakerphone or a video conference call platform like Skype or FaceTime.
2. Be prepared. Write down a list of topics, questions and concerns you would like to address, such as:
- How can each family member help?
- What are the best options for our family?
- What options are the most plausible financially?
- How should we begin the conversation with our loved one?
You should also research a few different senior care options beforehand, and encourage your family members to do the same. This can range from inquiring about pricing for a home care provider or senior living community, to exploring the possibility of purchasing a medical alert device. It will help you all develop a firm grasp on the reality of your options in terms of staying within a budget.
3. Stay as objective as possible. This can be extremely difficult to do when the conversation is all about your loved one’s safety at home, but it’s important that you put your emotions aside and focus solely on what is best for your loved one.
4. Be supportive and understanding of one another. Respect the fact that your family members may have different ideas than yours -- and that’s okay! The purpose of this conversation is to explore every option available, so encourage everyone to participant in the discussion and share their ideas.
5. Take a step back if necessary. Even after knowing the best way to start a conversation about an aging loved one, conflicts can still arise. Some of the most common caregiving conflicts among family members occur when someone’s behavior, feelings or suggestions are criticized, or when someone believes that they’re the only ones who know what is best for their loved one. Should you notice this type of behavior in yourself or a family member, take a step back so you can regain your objectivity.
6. Continue the conversation. Since your loved one’s condition will most likely change over time, keep communication channels with your family members open and make sure everyone receives regular updates.
Ensuring Your Loved One’s Well-being & Safety at Home
Even though conversations about your loved one’s well-being take time, there are things you can do right now to ensure their safety at home, like discarding expired medications and purchasing a cane or walker for better mobility. You can also fall-proof their home by removing tripping hazards like area rugs and electrical cords, adding lamps and nightlights to improve the lighting in each room, installing safety tools like grab bars and non-slip mats, and adding sturdy handrails on each side of staircases.
Another way to ensure your loved one’s safety is with a Medical Guardian medical alert device. Not only will they have access to immediate help in an emergency, but with our newest product line the Family Guardian, your whole family -- even those that live far away -- can receive real-time notifications of your loved one’s health and activity levels through the Family Guardian Monitoring App.