How To Talk To Your Aging Parents About Elder Care

Talking with your aging parent about elder care can be an incredibly challenging conversation to have for both of you. It may represent a loss of independence for them. For you, the adult child, it can be difficult as you must explain that they can no longer care for themselves or that you need help caring for them.

Aging parents and elder care tips for starting the conversation

Ask Questions and Really Listen to the Response

Having the conversation sooner rather than later would be beneficial as your aging parent can be involved in the decision-making process and putting a plan in place together with you. It is important to really listen to your parent about elder care and ask what is important to them. It may take more than one conversation before things start to happen. The time span can be over several months and that’s okay. Since this is a sensitive topic, planning ahead will make the conversations easier and more productive.

Real-Life Example:

John and Kate talked about how they had the conversation with their elderly father Charles, right after their mother passed. Charles was having some challenges with performing his activities of daily living but was reluctant to receive help. Charles’ wife Anna was playing the role of caregiver and now Charles felt lost. The siblings spoke with their father over several months and left the decision solely up to Charles. Charles did not want to be a burden to his children and started to consider what they were suggesting, which was care as he needed it, nothing more.

They discussed important points such as addressing all the possibilities now instead of making decisions during a crisis in which case Charles would probably not be involved in the care. Charles understood that he wanted to preserve the relationship with his children as his children and not having them as his caregivers. He is now at home receiving assistance from a home health aide. He understands that he may require more care in the future and is ok with that.

See it From Their Perspective

Your aging parent will feel a sense of pride and they will also believe that they are an able adult. We must understand that they will not share your same concern. They will be resistant as they will argue that they do not want a stranger in their home. They will say that they are too young and cannot believe that this is happening to them. Your parent will bring up that they have heard stories from neighbors, friends or other people about bad experiences with elder care.

If your parent is still able to understand that they need assistance at home but refuse to be open to receiving help, they may also bring up cost and say that they cannot afford it. While this can be a true concern, you must discuss all points together to ease their concern and come up with a solution as there are ways to have in-home care covered and ways to pay for care.

Your elderly parent may not be capable of understanding that they need care due to their mental and physical state. Under these circumstances it is advised to speak with their doctor and other family members about ways to best handle the situation.

Share Your Perspective

When you are ready to talk with your aging parent about elder care, sharing your perspective will help them understand how having in home care would be beneficial for both of you. Be sure to make a list of the tasks you are performing now as your parent’s caregiver (for example: mail, picking up prescriptions, running errands, meal prep, housekeeping). Once you discuss with your parent the tasks you are performing, reassure them that a professional can do these tasks just as well or better than you can.

Taking time to sit, talk and make a list of what a professional can do for them so that they don’t have to worry about their medical needs such as medical support like administering medication, changing a catheter will help put their mind at ease. Discuss with them how assistance with custodial support, chores, errands and housework would free up more time between you and your aging parent to spend together. Be clear when explaining where you want this relationship to go, for instance more quality time together and less logistics and maintenance.

Start Slow

After the initial conversation with your aging parent about their care needs at home, your next step would be to get them to agree to outside assistance for 1 to 2 critical needs. You can involve them in choosing needs that are less intrusive. Once you agree about accepting outside help for those critical needs then you can slowly add elder care services as your parent becomes accepting of the new approach.

Real-Life Example:

Lucy’s mother Agnes moved in with Lucy and her children. Agnes moved in right after Lucy’s divorce to help her daughter. As Agnes’ mental health started declining, the family realized that Agnes needed help with medication reminders and remembering daily tasks.

Agnes did not accept that she was forgetful and was very defensive when the topic was brought up.

Lucy involved her other siblings and together they listened to Agnes describe her biggest concern. Agnes wanted to be around her family as much as possible so that she would not forget them. The family reassured her that they would do everything possible to not allow that to happen. The siblings explained that with their remarkably busy schedules they would not be around to help her with remembering to take medications, get her day organized and take care of her daily tasks. Agnes did not want to be a burden to her family. She just wanted to be close to them, her initial thoughts were that the family would send her away.

Agnes agreed to in-home care for several hours a day and even agreed to a companion!

By listening to Agnes and understanding what her fear was the family was able to address it accordingly.

Talk With the Professionals

It is important to go over the doctor’s plan of care in detail. Ask related questions about the progression of your aging parent’s illness if it applies. This will allow you to plan ahead and also when to have the conversation with your parent. It is recommended that you schedule a consultation with an elder care agency. Please do not hesitate to give us a call with questions. We are here to help!