The holiday season is a common time for family members to notice changes in a loved one. When you gather as a family, you get an opportunity to see them interact and can compare this year to prior years. Now that the holidays have passed, you may be wondering if you should talk to your loved one about problems you noticed, and if so, how to go about it. It’s important to have these conversations in a way that is loving and constructive, so in this article, we will break down how to compassionately address your concerns with your loved one. Let’s dive in.
See Something, Say Something
It’s normal to have an interest in and pay attention to loved ones as they age, whether it’s your parents or grandparents. Over time, you may start to notice changes in their physical and mental health. If you haven’t seen your loved one in a while, the changes may be pronounced since the last time you were with them. If you see them or talk to them all the time on the other hand, you may have just noticed an uptick in the number of complaints they have about how they feel. No matter what caused the concern, don’t ignore the feeling that you should say something.
What Not To Do: Approaching With Care
Let’s first talk about how not to approach the situation. If you approach the situation in a way, that feels intrusive or heavy handed, you’re likely to push your loved one away from the outcome you desire.
There are a lot of reasons people avoid talking about their health or getting care for it. 38% of Americans delay or avoid treatment due to the cost. Other common reasons include:
- Time constraints.
- Logistics of getting to the doctor.
- Living too far away for it to be convenient, especially in rural areas.
- They may also not recognize the changes that you’re seeing. If they believe they are healthy, they may avoid care, even if it’s preventative.
- Not having access to transportation.
- Or a past bad experience with a medical professional that made them feel unheard, not believed, defensive, or offended.
It’s important to recognize these reasons so you can help your loved one overcome their hesitations and get the care they need. It’s for these reasons that you should take some time to plan out what you’d like to say before you launch at them.
Prepare for the Conversation
It’s important when planning for the discussion to try to have a basis for the concerns you’re raising. For example, make note of complaints they make frequently. Make note of changes you’re seeing. And check on things like their home and vehicle for signs of “something being off” including damage, disrepair, etc.
If possible (i.e., outside of an emergency), try to give your loved one a heads-up that you’d like to have an important discussion before the fact. If you come at them out of the blue, it’s natural for them to get initially defensive. By giving them a heads-up, they can mentally prepare themselves for a serious conversation. You should also keep the conversation private to just one-on-one if you can.
Reorient Your Thinking: Use “I” Not “You”
While we just told you to have a mental note of the topics you’d like to discuss and the evidence behind them, it’s important not to launch into these in the discussion. Consider using “I” statements, not “you” statements. Let’s break that down:
If you come to them with statements like “you always forget things“ or “you’re always complaining about X” you’re much more likely to receive a defensive response. Instead, you could say something like “I’m worried about the level of pain you’re in, can you tell me how you’re feeling?” or “I would love to come up with a plan to help you feel better. Can we discuss this?” or “ I am worried about this turning into something more serious.”
Give them space to address concerns they may have in response. They may match the ones listed above or maybe something else entirely. Regardless of their concerns, it’s important to validate them. If tensions run high, take a break and walk away for a few minutes before re-engaging.
One of the most common emotions they may experience after a conversation like this is fear. That’s why it can be very helpful for you to offer support.
Whether that’s emotional support (attending appointments with them or keeping up strong communication with them), or physical support (like driving them to appointments, running errands for them, or making appointments for them). The important thing is to show them that they are not alone in this and early detection and treatment can make a world of difference in most cases.
It’s also important to know that you, the person posing these concerns, are not alone. There are millions of families and friends just like you going through the same thing each year.
Should you become a caregiver for the loved one in question, the California Caregiver Resource Centers are here to support you. We are a non-profit network of 11 Centers that support caregivers across the state of California. Every county in the state is covered.
Further Reading: Caring for the Caregiver: Navigating Mental Health Challenges
Caring for the Caregiver: Navigating Mental Health Challenges is an article dedicated to the well-documented difficulties the role of caregiver presents.
Being a caregiver is a labor of love, but it’s not an easy path. The National Institute of Health (NIH) has uncovered some important insights into the mental health of caregivers, and it’s crucial to shed light on this subject. Click here to read the article.Share this post: