How to Start a Conversation with Your Elderly Parent about Home Care

Advice on how to navigate a difficult, but necessary, conversation with our parents

We all know that it is human nature to want to stay as independent as possible when one ages. It’s a matter of maintaining dignity, freedom, and self-determination.

It is normal for children, however, to want to bring in help as we see parents and loved ones struggle to manage. It could be that they are having difficulty with shopping, laundry, managing their bills, or answering the phone. It could be that they have difficulty cooking for themselves. All these tasks can be outsourced separately or a family member can perform these chores.

There comes a time, however, when the responsibilities of caring for a senior aggregate to the point that it’s difficult for you to manage. You probably have a family, a job, and your own responsibilities to handle. A better solution is needed.

Bringing in a home health aide will usually be unacceptable to the parent at first. It is a declaration of incapacity and confronting the fact that one cannot manage on one’s own. This is too hard to swallow in one gulp, so to speak. Introducing the idea in a gradual process will probably get better buy-in from the senior.

Introducing the idea in a gradual process will probably get better buy-in from the senior.

Obviously, you are going to use some psychology and understanding of your parent’s personality. Take the time to think about it and brainstorm with people who know how your parent reacts and what his or her behavior patterns are. It pays to play out several scenarios and even role play with someone else who cares about him or her.

Take the gradual approach. Planting ideas and discussing them further when the opportunity arises, keeps it conversational.

Focus on the senior and their priorities and needs. This maintains his or her dignity and keeps them as the priority. Listen carefully to the senior’s concerns so that you can address them in the future. Never get into a persuasive mode. Keep it light and keep it nonconfrontational.

Talk about someone who has made the choice to accept home care. Tell their story. It would be best if that person could share it with your parent. Second best is your telling the story.

Bring in a third party who can talk about a menu of options. Having choice is important.

Trying out the help is another option. In other words, encourage your parent to accept it by making it optional. Hopefully, like Sam-I-Am, s/he will try it and like it. Obviously, if you go this route, you will have to interview the aide before and thoroughly prime him or her on what you have planned, what the patient’s likes and dislikes are, and what style of engagement works best. For some people it’s companionship that’s most important; they like to discuss the news, shows, theater, reading preferences or other interests. For others, playing card games and gardening will work well. For others, teaching another person how to cook their favorite dishes will be a point of commonality. You want to try to find something that they will enjoy doing together without it being a burden.

For some very practical people, the subject can be broached from a child’s perspective. If your parent is proud of the job you hold and the responsibilities you have, you can start the conversation from that angle. Describe the conflict but don’t necessarily use that word.

For some very practical people, the subject can be broached from a child’s perspective.

Keeping your parent supported is an ongoing process. It bears frequent discussion and adjustment as you work to maintain your parent’s independence and dignity with the necessary supports.

I am having some trouble keeping up with my job (and home) obligations as well as coming to see you which is one of my very few treats. Spending time with you is one of my very few treats. There are time commitments and travel issues that further complicate things. You can continue with a script that goes like this.
I am trying to come up with strategies that will work well for both us.
Then you can respond to your parent’s response and carry the conversation further.
Some help for a couple of hours will reassure me that you are getting what you need and when I come we can play your favorite game of gin rummy.
In this example, you use the senior’s concern about their offspring to generate solutions.
Keeping your parent supported is an ongoing process. It bears frequent discussion and adjustment as you work to maintain your parent’s independence and dignity with the necessary supports.
If you would like to speak one us at Caring Professionals we have lifetimes of experience in this, we’ll help you get the right fit for you and your parent. Contact us here

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