There’s no hiding the fact that trying to convince an elderly individual that their safety is not the same as it was in their younger years is going to be difficult. Whether it’s a spouse, friend, brother or sister, parent, or anyone else, when seniors feel as though their independence, autonomy, or ability is being questioned, they could become defensive.
They don’t want to hear about safety concerns.
They don’t want to hear that you or somebody else thinks they are capable of walking around safely. They don’t want to have an adult child or even a grandchild tell them to stop getting out the ladder and cleaning out the gutters. They don’t want to hear these things because they view that as a sign of failure.
If you are confronting this type of situation, what can you do?
All you want is for this individual to hear you. You want your concerns to be addressed. Yet, any time the topic is broached, it seems to lead to a fight. This person gets defensive. They start lashing out. Maybe they storm away, slam the door, and refuse to come back out.
The first thing you need to understand is their perspective. This person will likely already have concerns of his or her own. They already understand their physical capabilities have declined. You need to realize this could be incredibly frustrating for them. It can be frightening to realize when you wake up one day that you are not the same person you were just a few short years ago.
Second, you need to be willing to listen to what they have to say. When we have concerns about safety of a family member or friend, we often focus on just those concerns, not what the other person has to say or what they worry about.
Perhaps this individual has tried to express some fear, but they did it in a more combative way and you simply didn’t really listen to it.
Third, you need to express in a supportive manner what your specific observations are. What caused you to have this concern about his or her safety in the first place? Did they slip going up the stairs? Has it been a pattern of slips and falls? Or is it just the fact they are slowing down, having difficulty just getting up from a chair, or something else?
Realize that it can be frustrating going slow, but it’s far better to do it that way than to constantly create tension, making it almost impossible to reach out to this individual.