If you happen to visit your aging parents over the holidays, you may notice a considerable decline in their capabilities and realize that it might be time to bring in some at-home care. This could be a very sensitive topic for them, however, so it is important to approach the conversation in the right manner, at the right time.
Here are some considerations to keep in mind that can help you successfully bring up with your parents the idea of hiring a professional caregiver:
1. Do a practice run. It may be helpful to talk through your emotions and thoughts with other family members or friends. This will help you plan what you want to say, and can allow you to work through any lingering issues from the past so you can focus on the matter at hand.
2. Ask questions. It’s okay to let them know that you have some concerns, but then allow them to give their own input and explanations. This will help prevent them from getting defensive, and could ease tensions that might otherwise end the conversation prematurely. Don’t try to parent them or communicate in a disrespectful way.
3. List the advantages of in-home care rather than focus on the issues that require assistance. Talk about how wonderful it would be for them to have help with chores around the house, or to not have to prepare every meal by themselves. Remind them how they would never forget about taking their medications again, and that they would never have to go out in inclement weather again if they had someone to run errands for them. More importantly, having a caregiver at home means they won’t have to move to an assisted living facility or nursing home. Remaining at home is also less costly, and ensures they will get quality, one-on-one care.
4. Focus on independence. Rather than dwelling on the downside of needing help with everyday life, it’s healthier for your parents to consider how having a caregiver could allow them to remain independent in their own home for a longer period of time. If they’ve already fallen once or twice, paint a visual picture for them of what could happen if this occurred again: broken bones, surgery, hospitalization, and a lengthy recovery. Having someone around to help could go a long way toward preventing this.
5. Try to understand their side of the situation. Take time to understand their concerns and attempt to alleviate their fears. Listen for unspoken clues and then address them head on. When elderly people act hostile towards a caregiver, it is often out of fear. Common fears include financial worries, losing control, and a loss of independence. Having an outsider inside their home could cause your parents to feel vulnerable. They may worry about having to entertain their caregiver when they’d rather just be left alone. Responding with empathy rather than frustration could go a long way toward reducing resistance.
6. Test out using a caregiver on a trial basis. Using outside help on a short-term basis for respite or recovery care can help show your parents that having a caregiver is not something to fear. This often leaves them open to receiving ongoing care. If you or another family member are currently the primary caregiver and are starting to feel overwhelmed, respite care can become a gradual bridge to hiring a longer-term caregiver.
7. Talk with a medical professional. It may be wise to talk with your parents’ primary care physician in advance to see if s/he shares your concern. If so, s/he will likely help you with the conversation. Since this individual is probably someone your parents have known for a long time and trust, having him or her in your corner could help tremendously.
8. Plant seeds and let the conversation grow over time. Don’t feel like you have to start the discussion and also come up with a solution all in the same sitting. Being proactive and bringing up the topic sooner rather than later means you can open the lines of communication with your parents before a crisis occurs, at a time when your parents are likely not feeling as defensive. Begin by talking about what they want as they get older, and then chat about different scenarios.
Using in-home care can be a gradual, transitional process. Professional caregivers can customize their services according to the needs and wants of their clients and client families. If you’re wondering what goes into providing at-home care for your parents, give Cahoon Care Associates a call. We’d be happy to answer any questions you have!