Can you help us create a wave of change one person at a time?
Our passion is helping seniors. For 21+ years, we have been working closely with families and seniors when the set-up at home becomes restrained by their level of mobility and/or cognitive ability which then affects the current living situation. We guide our clients towards a variety of solutions may it be by adapting at home or relocating.
Our niche approach has fine tuned itself with the focus of helping seniors when they face a change in autonomy to help improve their level of security, maintain as much self care as possible and enhance social interaction so they remain engaged in daily living. When something gets out of balance, often family members, as well as seniors, struggle with knowing what to say, what to do and usually end up avoiding the topic all together until there is a crisis to handle. These are tricky and sensitive conversations to have. As more time passes, the elephant sits longer and longer in the room.
Seniors and aging are two topics where there are a lot of taboos….add in a rapid or slow change in autonomy and that brings on that much more of a hushed conversation.
As the elephant in the room takes up more and more space, what ends up happening is that the most beloved people in our lives, our aging parents or seniors, retreat. Retreat to their homes, retreat from their friends, retreat from different parts of their communities and often start isolating themselves instead of actively engaging.
In the decades of working in this specific field of helping seniors relocate, or adapting the home, when seniors face a change in autonomy, we have paid attention to emotions, wording, approaches, attitudes and their effect on this journey in life. Our field study has led us to focus on the words and language used in the ‘senior world’ and the impact caused by the words used.
It has become one of our missions to begin a movement where dialogue is key. The words we use around the elderly matter. Let’s create an improved vocabulary that empowers seniors and gives them the dignity they deserve.
Seniors are dear to our heart and we wish to pay our learnings forward.
Our population is aging. Should you be a professional working with or wanting to start working with seniors, or if you are a son, daughter, neighbour or a friend of an elderly one, we want to help. Should you find yourself at a loss of knowing how to open up a conversation about aging, we hope this provides a core guidance so that together we can address aging and stop skirting around all the topics that surround it.
Our focus has been specifically when a senior faces a change in autonomy that causes an upheaval in activities of daily living and when worry starts showing up more and more frequently.
- How can I help? My Mom is so stubborn and will not let me in.
- Who can I talk to about different options so my parents are safer at home?
- How do I find a suitable residence for my parents?
- Yikes. I never want to be put in a residence and you kids can take me out feet first!
Such sadness, fear, guilt, overwhelming feelings and intense emotions all come to play in anticipation of having this conversation. So much is ingrained in our language and in our approach. Giguere, an advocate for seniors and founder of Helping Seniors, has recently published an illustrated children’s book titled Grandma’s Place to address this exact subject matter, and to ask for change.
Why a book addressed to children to deliver this message, you ask?
Her own children, having observed their mother building a business since their early days, have heard how she speaks about and addresses seniors. One evening, they witnessed a conversation at a dinner table between four elders at the table. When one of them mentioned that one of their friends had been placed in a long term care residence, both her children piped in and said “It is not about placing him or putting him somewhere.” All the seniors at the table were startled and asked the children what they meant. Their response was “It is about him going to live there and receiving the care and support he needs.”
Marie-Claude let the conversation unfold organically as she held her silence and appreciated the fact that her children spoke up. They were 11 and 13 years old at the time. Leaning back in her chair she recognized that this ingrained language of ‘putting’ and ‘placing’ a senior in a retirement living community would be best delivered to children who have not yet been tainted by the current phraseology.
The children’s book, Grandma’s Place, is written to be shared with an adult. This captures two generations at the same time in hopes that it will open up conversations about aging in a more positive light.
And for the members of the population with no children or with adult children? Knowing this topic is not sexy and that few people wish to discuss aging, a conscious decision was made to create attractive images and charming images. The illustrations were designed so that they could live their own life beyond the pages of the book. The initial intention was to create a traveling art show to attract people from all walks of society in a different way and welcome everyone to this invitation of hearing our current language by providing new, more positive alternatives.
Alongside each other, the paperback and audio book, combined with a virtual art show, the goal of these tools is to create intrigue in an attractive manner while connecting with as wide an audience as possible.
An 8 year old who is in the midst of reading Grandma’s Places asked Marie-Claude why she wrote the book. Caught off guard by the child’s question this was her response: “Great question! Because I think that even if you use a cane, a walker or are a bit forgetful and if you are old or young that I should appreciate you just as you are, even if you need more help. And that when I speak to you I should use kind words.”
‘Oh I like that. That makes sense.’ said the 8 year old boy.
Aging: Our Words Matter is at the core of Grandma’s Place, the 3D art show and message.
Years and years of work to boil it down to 4 small words.
Our words shape our thoughts, reactions, and actions in all we do. Giguère, has paid attention to what causes high levels of guilt, what shuts down conversations, where tempers get heated and the approach that is used when families, seniors and professionals discuss adapting a home or a nudge towards relocating.
Here are some examples of phrases used when some seniors face a change in autonomy and are recommended to enhance their daily set-up, physical surroundings and/or suggested to accept care for tasks they may struggle with – all for their own safety.
- Well, we are going to force you.
- Yeah, we pushed my Mom to take action.
- He has no choice, he must do something.
- My children want to place me in a home.
- Since going back home is not an option, due to safety concerns, let’s fill out this Placement form?
- We put our parents in that new residence.
If we take those same sentences or comments and modify them ever so slightly, how do they sound to you?
- Well, we are going to encourage you / support you.
- Yeah, we supported my Mom to take action.
- He has so many options, he must be able to find something that can help him.
- My children want to relocate me because they are worried about my safety.
- Since going home might not be the best option for you right now let’s fill out this Current Needs form.
- Our parents are living in that new residence.
There is a huge difference in the sentiment of each phrase. The first set of sentences seem filled with bullying, obligation as well as a feeling of being pushed aside. All of those comments (and more!) have been heard live and even among families where love is very strong and the core of their fiber.
A slight change in the wording can present positive approaches and encourage different outcomes or exploration. In no way is our intention to mask or sugar coat these challenging conversations. On the contrary, it is to approach the topic of aging and all it’s complexity by seeing the positive side and not only the dark negative side. Our experience at Helping Seniors has taught us that by using positive terms and language conversations around aging can be more enjoyable, can help reduce the stress that surrounds a change in autonomy especially when it touches the current living conditions.
Through all the steps of moving, relocating, lightsizing or hiring help, and through the process of adapting to their new realities and current needs, let’s help our elders feel safe and happy in the place they call home.
Our words have the power to open up or rapidly shut down conversations. To a senior destabilized by a change in autonomy, a few simple words can make all the difference.
Let’s speak from the heart when it comes to conversations around aging.
What can you do today?
Can we ask you to share this message so that together, one person at a time, we can create change in the words we use to help our seniors and offer them the respect they deserve.