Suggesting a home care service to aging parents is perhaps one of the most difficult conversations you can have with them. In our country, aging is regarded as a negative. Combine that with the fear of losing independence and you have a recipe for denial and resentment. Many aging parents will gladly accept help from their adult children (i.e., shopping, laundry, cooking, medication management, etc.) and it’s usually seen as a loving, dutiful gesture. However, transferring those same duties to an outside, paid service suddenly takes on a whole new light in the eyes of those same parents. Every situation is different, of course, as personalities, family dynamics and levels of need all come into play, but these tips should help you know what to expect and how to best frame the discussion.
Recommended Ways to Encourage Loved Ones to Accept Home Care Help
Get The Facts
Carefully monitor and assess their needs beforehand so you have examples and aren’t misreading one incident. This is especially important if you don’t see them often or don’t live nearby and physically interact with them. This might include accompanying them to doctor visits. You don’t ever want to come at them from an accusatory tone, but one of love and concern. If they fall into denial, you will have specific incidents to assure yourself that you are doing the right thing. You may bring up specific situations or incidents based on the comfort level of your relationship. Only you can be the judge of what will feel loving in your specific situation.
Be sure to point out the things that are going well for them. Always, always, always point out the great things they are doing. Help them see they still will be living a joyful life — just with more help for the aspects that have become more challenging and cumbersome. If you have been the one helping them, remind them that your interactions will now be more quality time.
Suggesting support in a smaller area they care less about, is not as invasive, or threatening to their independence. For example, if they struggle with the physicality of laundry, light housekeeping and/or grocery shopping, you can have someone come in to help with one of those particular tasks. The more they get used to having a non-family member help in those areas, the easier it will be to add on other more important aspects later.
Suggest a ‘trial’ period
Nobody likes committing to something without an “out.” That’s why the 30-day money-back guarantee was born. The idea that you can try something and if you don’t like it can still apply here. This may make them feel more at ease and more in control. Just be prepared for them to dig their heels in and say they don’t like it — even if they do. If this is the route you take and it took some getting there, be sure to discuss it with your home care provider so the caregiver knows up front. You’d be amazed at how complete transparency in the relationship between the caregiver that’s being “test driven” and the client can actually break the ice.
Many parents dream of leaving a legacy for their children and sometimes that comes in the form of money. They don’t want to let go of what they have spent a lifetime building. Let them know you would rather they be safe and happy than have some type of inheritance; that this is THEIR money and they should spend it making THEIR life better.
Choose Words Carefully
This is perhaps one of the hardest things to do. You might feel like there is no way to suggest this in a positive light, but it helps to frame the conversation using phrases like “time together” and “enjoy life” as opposed to “because you are aging.”
If #6 was the hardest, this one may be the most important. We can’t say this enough. Listen, listen and then listen some more. Hear their fears. Address them. Let them know you are still there for them. Encourage them to talk about it. Ask them about their fears. Don’t force a decision after a 5-minute conversation. It may take several casual, heartfelt conversations for them to get comfortable with the idea. If they know you are truly listening, odds are they will be more likely to “hear” you also.
Look for decisions they can make in the process. This is important. Talk about any areas they might be struggling with. What is the one chore they “hate” (i.e., find difficult) doing anymore. Stress how accepting help will allow them more time and energy for other interests. Maybe they can set the days, hours or specific tasks that a home care provider could help with. Maybe they help with the interview process. Of course, these all depend on the level of cooperation and decision-making ability in your particular situation.
Role Model to Others
Talk about how they modeled love and support to yourself and others and talk about your desire to model the same for your own children or the next generation. Make sure they truly understand that you’re suggesting this out of love. You most likely have a job, household and other responsibilities and that you want to be 100% present with them when you are together. Handing over your caregiving responsibilities will allow you to love THEM, not give your attention to the tasks at hand.
Now that you know a few ways to approach it, you might prepare yourself for some of the most common reactions.
They may lash out, fearing a loss of independence and control. You may need to let them cool down. Once the suggestion has been made, it will give them time to think about it. Empathize with their feelings and table the discussion for a while if needed. We suggest reverting back to #7 above. Try to listen. Have more conversations that aren’t looking for a decision yet.
They may have a strong desire to prove you wrong and purposefully do things you have expressed concern about in the past. As suggested in #1 above, be sure you have kept an accurate accounting of your concerns and observations before you approach them. You don’t want to suggest this if you have truly misread one incident. You will need to navigate your particular relationship and how comfortable you are bringing up specific areas of need based on things you’ve witnessed.
They may stop sharing their feelings and daily activity for fear you will judge or critique them. Continue to reach out and let them know you care about them and their well-being.
They may stop including you in their lives for fear you will see their need for help. This may include access to relevant medical information. Unless you have medical power of attorney, it is up to them to share any medical information.
Studies show that the majority of senior want to stay in their own homes as long as possible. Home care situations can range anywhere from needing a little help with chores to needing 24/7 nursing care, but it is always easier when it’s started at an earlier stage of need.