It can be a challenge to take care of aging parents. Many times, they want to remain independent and refuse additional help. How do you get an aging parent to accept that a little extra help around the home would make everyone’s life easier?
Depending on your relationship with your parents, convincing an older person they need help can be a delicate conversation. It’s a talk about exercising autonomy and control while letting go of the same. Be prepared to empathize and listen. And be open to starting small – each step is a way forward.
5 Tips for Talking to Seniors
- Be sensitive.
- Be curious, ask questions.
- Express how you feel.
- Be persistent.
- Seek outside help.
1. Be sensitive to the things they are doing right.
No one wants to hear all the things they are doing wrong. The person who is struggling is rarely unaware they are struggling – they are just refusing to admit it. To themselves or others, in some cases. Open a conversation with positive feedback. Let them know that you see their struggles, and you applaud how well they are handling some of them.
Be prepared for your loved ones to disagree with your observations. You will always be their child. After decades of helping you, this role reversal can be a lot to absorb. They may only hear that they aren’t capable – you want them to hear how much you care. Be sensitive to their resistance and respond with understanding.
2. Don’t assume you know everything about their challenges.
We think we are helping – they fear they are losing control. Ask questions about what your parents find most challenging during the day and offer options on how to make those tasks easier. Not many of us like being told what to do – especially in our own homes! – and we like to feel like our input matters.
If they are absolutely refusing to budge, focus on smaller matters. What would they be willing to accept help with? Laundry? Housekeeping? Introducing mom or dad to an in-home caregiver to only help with grocery shopping and meal preparation may seem like a less dramatic change. Ask for one area they would be willing to accept help and work with that.
3. Let your aging parents know how you feel.
If they rely on you for meals, laundry, and multiple visits a week, let them know if that expectation is too much for you. A plan to stay at home cannot include burning out family caregivers. Be prepared to talk about more realistic expectations. Be open about how your concern for their safety affects your ability to be fully present with your own family, focus at work, or take time for your own physical and mental health.
Most parents don’t want to be a burden to their children. Making the conversation a little bit about you is okay. It is part of the give-and-take of a healthy parent-child relationship that, as we all age, we are mindful and respectful of each other’s needs. That means saying our needs out loud – even when it is hard.
4. This is not a one-and-done conversation.
Be prepared to start with short conversations and come back to the topic often. Schedule time to talk about how things are going at home and know that timing is EVERYTHING. Try to end conversations on a positive note and with at least one action item. For example, if you start talking about in-home care, commit to a phone call or consultation with a local home care agency where everyone can ask questions and learn more about services.
Change can be hard.
I need a break.
Let’s make a plan to keep you at home.
Value even the smallest steps forward. Appreciate that even the slightest compromise is a very big deal for an independent senior. If it isn’t an emergency, pick your battles and avoid power struggles. These conversations take time and are best started as soon as the need for help is identified.
5. There is no shame in asking for help.
If your attempts to obtain help keep leading to uncomfortable conversations with your aging parents, ask for help. There is only so much you can do on your own. You may be surprised how many resources are available to help seniors and their families in your local area. There is invaluable support waiting for you from experts who work with seniors every day.
Don’t beat yourself up. Keeping an aging loved one safely at home often starts with private duty home care. When it is assistance with tasks like laundry, meal preparation, and transportation to appointments, private home care services may seem less threatening. Also, it allows your aging parent to get used to having someone else around – that isn’t you! – and see that their independence isn’t in jeopardy. In fact, they may find they have more time and energy to do the things they enjoy.
Caring for Aging Parents Often Takes a Village
Always remember that you are not alone. Collaborate with your parents’ doctor, other family members, and trusted friends to encourage additional help in the home. Hearing support for help in the home from multiple sources may be just what they need to convince them. Chances are you have plenty of people on your side and willing to help – reach out and let them.
Start with a Phone Call
If you aren’t sure that private home care services are for you, start with a phone call to learn more. If you don’t know which home care agency to call, ask your parent’s doctor, your elder law attorney, or friends who also took care of an elderly loved one. A great recommendation from a trusted source is worth its weight in gold!
Private Duty Home Care is an ideal resource for seniors who want to age safely at home and the big reason they are one of the Resources We Love. Learn more about how private home care services are helping seniors and their families in the Resources Section of our Blog.