Ruth's point of view

“Our parents don’t ask for our help because they don’t want to be seen as a burden”

Centra is calling for families to make sure relatives at risk of covering up problems get the care and support they need. This Morning presenter Ruth Langsford tells us why she is backing the campaign.

Ten top tips for tackling difficult conversations with your parents about their future

Ruth Langsford

When my friends and I used to get together within a few minutes we’d always be talking about our children...these days it’s our parents. As our children get older they become more independent and start needing us less but, just as you breathe a sigh of relief that you’ve managed to get them this far without too much trouble, you start to worry about your parents.

It’s very difficult to know when to intervene when it comes to parents...all your life they’ve looked after you, guided you and offered their advice but then the balance changes. You start to feel like the parent rather than the child. You start to worry about them more, about their health and their well being but it’s not an easy relationship and it can lead to some very difficult conversations.

My Dad was the most vibrant man you could meet – tall, manly, healthy and the life and soul of the party. That all changed when he developed Alzheimer’s disease. He was only in his late sixties when his behaviour started to change and it was a shock to us all when he was finally diagnosed with dementia. Mum became his full time carer and she looked after him for 11 years at home and that’s when it became apparent that she found it very difficult to ask for help – even from her own family. We would only find out she’d been struggling with things after talking to her friends. We found out once, long after the event, that Dad had fallen in the night and she couldn’t get him up. She sat on the floor with him all night until she could get help from a neighbour in the morning. When we asked her why she hadn’t told us she said the predictable...”I didn’t want to worry you”. But of course we DO worry, all the time.

Dad passed away last year so now Mum lives alone. She’s as fiercely independent as she ever was and, although she’s 83, she dashes around like a twenty year old! She’s got lots of hobbies and interests and generally is in very good health. The reality is though, she’s not as fit and healthy as she used to be. I worry all the time that she might fall in the garden, or feel unwell in the night and won’t “disturb” us. Recently, during a phone call talking about a trip to a see a friend, she announced she was going up into the loft to get her suitcase down! I managed to persuade her to wait for my brother in law to pop over and get it for her.

Now, new research from Centra has found as many as 1 in 6 over-65’s have hidden a serious injury, illness or accident from friends or family; this means they could be putting themselves in more danger. When I talk to my friends it’s a similar story.... our parents don’t ask for our help because they don’t want to “become a burden”. Sadly, that’s how they see it.


But it’s heartening to discover that companies like Centra offer a wide range of services such as personal alarms, which help people in need stay safe in their own homes, independent and in control, with their dignity in tact. We all lead busy lives and can’t always be around to help our parents as much as we’d like to – knowing that at a press of a button, a specially trained team of operators are on hand day and night to deal with any emergencies would help ease our worries. Having a personal alarm system at home will give older people the independence they want but offer their families the peace of mind that we need. Now all we have to do is have the conversation and persuade them to get one......good luck!

Ten top tips for tackling difficult conversations with your parents about their future