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One of the most difficult things about seeing your loved one grow older is watching his or her mental and physical abilities decline. Old age is inevitable and many people are prepared to care for seniors as they age, but that doesn’t make it any easier when your loved one suddenly can’t remember details the way they did before or can’t participate in the same physical activities they used to love. If you are starting to notice a decline in your loved one’s abilities, the most important thing is to communicate, so that both of you are prepared for what will happen in the future and understand how best to work through it.

Make sure that when you start the conversation, both of you are in a comfortable place, preferably somewhere that they feel at home. Throughout the discussion, make sure to reference how you feel, and ask how they feel. Try framing sentences around your inner feelings and concerns: “I’m worried about you because…” or “I care about you a lot, which is why I’m telling you this…” are phrases that work well. This helps show the other person that you are coming from a place of care and ultimately reinforces the idea that you will work through these problems together, no matter what.

With that said, don’t shy away from the tough parts of the conversation. Talking about subjects such as financial and legal problems may be difficult, but it is important to discuss how you are going to be able to handle your loved one’s ability to drive, deal with bank statements, or fill out medical paperwork. In many cases, the other person is used to independence and does not want to give it up; while this is understandable, you should do your best to repeat that you care about them and want them to be healthy and happy, which is why it is necessary for you to intervene in these matters.

This applies to other issues such as the possibility of hiring a caretaker or installing special equipment in your loved one’s home in order to better accommodate their personal needs. Honesty is key: emphasize the idea that although it is difficult, these changes are necessary, because without them, he or she will not be able to live a safe and comfortable life. Ultimately, show them that you are there in their best interest, and that although they are going through a difficult transition, they will deal with it with your help.

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