Such a simple question, but it can also be a complicated one. 

Is that a question we as children ask our parents often enough when we’re noticing changes?  Or do we assume what they need based on our perception, and then move forward without question or permission, to change something in their world?

In that same vein, do we as aging adults sit down with our loved ones/children and acknowledge things are changing? Do we review our own status, determine our needs, and share, asking for their support?  Or do we proudly and stubbornly keep it all inside, thinking we’re invincible (because we have been until now), and move forward without serious consideration of a backup plan, or how our choices could/would affect our larger circle?  If we want or expect the help of others, we do need to understand their capabilities and limitations.

We all want to be as independent as possible as long as possible.  It’s a simple fact.  We like it how we like it and want it done how we want it done.  And we want everyone to be harmonious in the process.  And that works while things are working.  But it doesn’t work when the unexpected happens – health changes, accidents, when the status quo becomes chaos. Now we’re out of our comfort zone and we’re in the territory of not knowing what we don’t know regarding ‘what’s next.’

People often respond boldly and rudely when they’re scared and unsure of what to do, feeling helpless and overwhelmed simultaneously.  By being proactive and taking charge, it gives us a sense of control.  What’s important to remember is to check in and ASK.  “HOW can I help you?” Or “I’ve been thinking long and hard about this, THIS is what I need; can you help?”  Once we share our perspective it opens the door to discussion, ideally in a calm and respectful manner.  We need to listen to each other’s rationale and then offer ours with suggestions and options vs. mandates.

It’s age-old – different generations can view the same situations from a completely different perspective.  Let’s all learn to step back and move forward with empathy, understanding and respect.  We need to help each other.  This will give everybody the best chance at success, whether you’re experiencing change or helping to navigate it.

Elaine Poker-Yount, CDP, Aging & Dementia Care Specialist

Reach her at 480-833-8247 or