Family Caregiver Blog

Acing that Dreaded Technology Talk with Mom

By Sally Abrahms

Five years from now, convincing Mom that aging in place technology is beneficial will be a snap. Many of her friends will be using it and it will be an accepted, and expected, part of living independently.

But we’re not there yet. The concept is new enough that your parents may be less than wild about the idea (as in, “No way!”) That means you need to understand their thinking before making your case for technology.

Let’s face it, getting older can feel like a series of losses: friends may move or pass away, you may be less physically or cognitively vital, or unable to do something the way you used to.

Sure, technology can keep you in control and independent as long as possible, but your parents are right, too: needing technology is confirmation that something has changed. You need to acknowledge their feelings and then give them a good reason to use it.

They may be thinking:

  • I will lose control of my life and my independence

  • Technology is an invasion of my privacy and an imposition on my lifestyle

  • I don’t need it—it’s for old and sick people--such overkill!

  • It will be a constant reminder that I’m old and can’t take care of myself

  • My kids are treating me like a baby—I’m the PARENT!

  • It costs too much

  • Technology will take the place of my family. They won’t call or visit me as much if they know that I’m okay

  • It will be too complicated to use. I don’t understand how it works.

Let’s go back to some of these concerns:

1. THEM: I will lose control of my life and my independence. These gadgets are a sign of weakness.

YOU: In fact, technology allows you to stay in control and maintain your independence. You will have more freedom. Without it, you might need a different living arrangement (moving in with a child, moving to long-term care—tech is not exactly their “Get Out of Jail” card, but you get it). You’re in charge. You push the button when you need to. And as for a sign of weakness? Hardly! You’re being responsible and taking action before there’s an issue

2. THEM: It’s an imposition and invasion of my privacy.

YOU: It’s unobtrusive. No one is filming you or spying on your conversations. It’s just making sure you stay healthy and if there’s a problem—you’re driving and you’re lost, or you have a flat tire, or you’re out on the golf course and don’t feel well, or there’s a fire or burglary, or you trip and fall—you will get help immediately. No lying on the floor alone waiting to be rescued. We’re talking safety. It will give you peace of mind, as well as us, your children.

3. THEM: If my family knows I’m okay, they’ll call and visit less.

YOU: Au contraire! If we know you’re okay, we can focus on topics other than your health or checking up on you. It will be so much more pleasant for both of us—you as the parent, we as the kids. The technology is for when you aren’t with them only.

THEM: Just one more expense I don’t need.

YOU: If it’s coming out of your pocket, then the subject is moot. If not, let them know it’s far cheaper than in-home professional help.

THEM: It’s too hard and too much of a hassle to figure out technology.

YOU: You’re right, some technology is complicated, but not the new tech. Just press a button and you’re off to the races!

Five more tips for that technology talk:

  1. Blame yourself! Tell them you want them to use the technology so you and their grandkids won’t worry about them and know they are safe.

  2. No threats; they’re counterproductive and belittling.

  3. Like any other serious conversation, pick a time when there are few distractions, you’re not rushed, and Mom or Dad is least tired (after breakfast?).

  4. Listen to what they have to say and be understanding. If it gets contentious, drop the tech topic and bring it up another time. It’s likely to be an ongoing talk rather than a one-time conversation.

  5. Consider this: Dad may feel relieved that you’re suggesting aging in place tech, but not admit it to you.

Of course, there’s the chance he’ll say, “Great idea, thanks so much for suggesting it.” Just don’t count on it!

Have you had the tech talk with your parents? How did it go? If not, what are your reservations about bringing it up? Anything we forgot? We definitely want to hear from you!