Remember when you thought mom or dad having “the birds and the bees” talk with you was the most awkward conversation you’d ever have to conduct with them?
At the time, it probably was. They were trying to help you navigate through a new, unfamiliar and potentially frightening new period in your life. It was uncomfortable and strange to verbalize it, and it probably would have been easier at the moment to just look the other way, but they didn’t.
As your parents age, you may feel some discomfort and dread related to having the shoe on the other foot. Now it’s your turn to have a talk with them, to discuss how they’ll transition into a new phase in life and to talk about the need for home care professional to provide additional support.
The conversation isn’t one that anyone looks forward to, but it’s necessary for the long run to ensure their ongoing safety, comfort, and peace of mind. We’ve compiled a list of tips to help you make it through the conversation successfully and with everyone’s dignity intact.
Start the conversations early.
Your parent’s defenses are likely to be heightened if you wait until reaching a crisis before encouraging assistance. If you start talking before serious issues arrive, you’ll be able to gain an idea of your parent’s wishes in an abstract form, before they’re actually making decisions regarding their own lives.
By starting early, you can ask them how they’d like to address the issue when the time comes and receive an answer that’s less emotional than when you have to initiate a discussion following an injury or a crisis.
Keep accusations to a minimum.
Starting the conversation with a litany of their issues – their medications, their forgetfulness, their driving skills – is the best way to ensure the conversation escalates or stops completely before it really gets started. No one wants to listen to someone else, particularly their child, lay out their shortcomings.
Instead of telling them about the ways they’ve declined as they’ve aged, emphasize the convenience that they’ve earned through their years of hard work and sacrifice, and the opportunity to take advantage of support from a home care worker.
Honesty is still important, so you can share issues that you’ve noticed (forgetfulness, medication management issues, etc.), but only once a foundation of respect has been laid in the conversation.
Highlight the benefits.
90 percent of people would like to stay in their home as long as possible as they age, and many hope to stay there through the end of their lives. While your parents might not be keen on having home care, offering this as a first-and-best solution has obvious upside.
Working with home care allows them to stay in their own residence and routine longer, as a home care professional can visit them and ensure their well-being. Initially, the thought of having another person in the home regularly might seem intrusive, but once your parent adapts to the idea, they’ll be able to appreciate the convenience of having help at home rather than transitioning immediately to an assisted living facility or a nursing home.
Remind your parent that the home care team will be supporting them, not controlling them. Their home care worker can assist them with daily routines (like grooming, medication, light household tasks, and errands) that will give them more freedom to do what they enjoy.
Involve them in the process.
While you are the one leading this conversation, it’s important to remember that it’s your parent’s life. Ultimately, you can’t force them to make the choice you want, even if it’s in their best interest.
You can lay the groundwork and do research for them, but then ensure they feel freedom in the decision-making process. For example, give them an opportunity to meet with their home care workers prior to making a final decision.
Feeling like they have the opportunity to interview their carer and find a good fit for their personality is important. Many elderly people strike up lasting friendships with their home care professionals, and feeling a close bond with a person entering your home and personal space is extremely important to make the situation work.
Growing older is not easy. If your parent is showing signs of deterioration, either physically or mentally, they’re probably feeling pretty frightened.
Exhibiting defensiveness is common, precisely because an aggressive attitude may be used to cover their true emotions and concerns about entering their sunset years. Instead of responding back with hurtful or frustrated comments, try to bite your tongue.
Keep your tone neutral and your communications fact-based, instead of driven by emotional language (e.g., “Last week, you were pulled over by a police officer who mentioned she was concerned about your vision on the road,” instead of, “I can’t believe you think it’s okay for you to still be driving; you could kill someone.”).
Show some hope and enthusiasm for the benefits home care could provide, but also show grace and understanding if it takes your parent a while to acclimate to the idea. The goal of providing home care for an elderly parent is to improve their quality of life and give you both peace of mind. To do that takes time, patience and cooperation.
Family conversations are not always easy, but when you care about someone deeply, you find a way to connect with them and ensure their needs are met. If you are having these conversations with your parents, Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E. can equip you with information to share with your parent. Then, when they’re ready, we can help them find the right partner to assist with their home care and become a valued part of their life.