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Independence: freedom from outside control or support

No matter what time of year it is, it will always be difficult having certain conversations with your loved ones once they get older. Driving, personal care, housework and finances are just a few topics. Addressing these serious family issues, while still being sympathetic to their feelings is key.

A good place to start is to do some research before you make the approach, and have some alternatives ready to suggest. Spend some time with them and observe how they drive, how they maintain their house, whether they are eating a balanced meal daily, and whether the mail piling up on a table. When the time is right, start the discussion with a calm attitude, and with an open heart and mind. Ask them for their input. Chances are, they have already thought about these things and may already have a game plan. Validate their concerns and their suggestions. Perhaps even consider having someone else with you who you know they respect such as another relative, pastor or doctor.

Concerns over physical health are bound to be on everyone’s minds during the COVID-19 pandemic, including your loved ones. Some seniors who have been through many decades of flu seasons and transmitted diseases such as polio want to ignore the serious characteristics of this thers simply will not remember with consistency the importance of guidelines such as hand washing or carrying a mask when with others.

What can you do?

  • Share frequently your own experiences at the grocery store, at work, or when you go out to dinner.
  • Give them a visual, like a poster, which they can see easily at home.
  • Call if you can’t visit to ask how their day was, did they have any visitors, or if they are still driving, did they enjoy getting out? Listen for ways to transition to gentle reminders about their health.
  • Don’t blow up over what you hear and plan how to ask about the CDC safety guidelines in different ways that will be receptive to them. Keep in mind that they most likely do not want to appear incompetent or needy.

Remember, you are there to HELP your loved ones be as independent as possible, for as long as possible. Let them know that you are not trying to take over their lives. Let them know that you appreciate them for taking care of you for so many years, and now you believe it is their turn to have some extra help from you. That is something that you need to be sure to portray to them. Growing older and having things taken away isn’t easy on them, much less anyone. They may feel scared, angry, confused or hopeless. Have compassion for their situation and understand that change is extremely hard on them.