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How to Talk to an Older Family Member about Change

We all want to keep our loved ones safe but change can be hard for an older adult to accept.

It can feel like too much too soon and that can cause a lot of frustration for both the well meaning family members and for the person who doesn’t see themselves as getting older.

Let me tell you a story to illustrate an idea to consider: 

I missed the Olympics by 1/10th of a second in 1996.

The Canadians normally bring 6 swimmers for the relay but that year, the committee hadn’t made a final decision yet when I got out of the pool.

 I took my drug test, got a rub down and waited.

 In the end, the decision was made to bring only the top 4.  I was 5th.

 I tell you this story to paint the picture that there was a time in my life when I trained 2 hours in the morning, 2 hours at night and sometimes at lunch…. 5-6 days a week!!

 Yet today, I got in my pool and swam until I was exhausted.  Total time in the pool?  5 minutes. No joke.

 But that’s ok. We all get better with consistent practice.

 Yes, I agree that 5 minutes is a LONG way from swimming 4-6 hours a day.

 But, that’s my current physical situation and I can’t change that overnight. I can only work with what I’ve got right now.

 My approach is the same when I do Aging-in- Place Consultations.

 I don’t insist the only solution is to pull up the treasured rugs, install grab bars they don’t want or cancel their Netflix subscription. I’m sure I would find myself suddenly alone on the Zoom call!!

 Instead, I try to meet them where they are at TODAY. I give information. I offer suggestions. I problem solve around preferences.

 A good question to ask is, “What small step forward would you be ok with changing so we can make your situation safer?”

 Then, you can build on this answer and hopefully create positive momentum to encourage embracing even more impactful changes.

 This can be so hard to do but just remember the story of the hare and the turtle. The hare’s sudden pushes didn’t work. It was the turtle’s slow but consistent efforts to move forward that ultimately won the race.

 As for me, I’ll be swimming for 6min tomorrow because I know for a fact that if you commit to working on your goal everyday, it’s impossible that you won’t succeed!