No one likes being told what to do, and that includes older people, too.
So if you’re thinking about getting a medical alert system for an elderly relative, or you want to make some of the home safety improvements I discuss in my newsletter series, you’ve got a delicate task ahead of yourself.
It usually doesn’t work to just bulldoze your way through and insist that something change. Sure, you might get the medical alert system ordered, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to get used. And you’ll probably end up being resented.
And it’s not just being pushy that’s the problem. The very subject of elder safety makes people uncomfortable. As eldercare expert Rosanna Fay says in her Forbes article, “No matter how you slice it, when you [talk about] the need for an eldercare plan or an aging-in-place solution, you are fundamentally calling to mind notions of infirmity, illness and death.”
The folks over at Bay Alarm Medical have some inspiring ideas for what to do to create a successful conversation. I’ve used their list as a jumping off place for this one:
First, make it about your needs, not their infirmity. Whether you’re trying to get them to try a medical alert or add grab bars to their bathroom, don’t focus on their problems, but on how these changes will make you feel better and worry less.
Second, position the change as a cheap insurance policy. When you think about it, whatever money you might spend on a grab bar or some better lights in the bathroom are peanuts compared to what it’s going to cost if your loved one has a preventable fall.
Third, focus on independence. Sure, many of the changes that make a home safer are needed because of lack of mobility, declining balance, lower energy, etc. But why dwell on that when you can keep the conversation focused on what most seniors want, which is to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible? For example, a medical alert that works well outside, like the MediPendant, can keep a senior feeling confident while working outside in their garden, instead of being fearful of having an accident and allowing their life to contract only to activities that feel 100% safe.
You can also consider seeing if they’re willing to try something out. With a medical alert, most companies offer a 30-day trial period. Yes, you might be out the cost of shipping the unit, but that’s a small price to pay for your loved one being able to have the system in their own home and experience it first hand. In the worst case, they hate it and return it, and you’re out $30. But that rarely happens!
Remember, also, to make it simple. Complicated choices and complicated setup or installation steps will slow down any decision.
What tips do you have for talking with elderly parents about these issues? Share them in the comments.