Aging is difficult. As your parents grow older, they are less able to do normal activities for themselves. When that begins to happen, it might be time to discuss caregiving. According to a recent AARP survey, 9 out of 10 seniors want to stay at home as long as possible, and nearly all of them do not want to move. Additionally, a recent study revealed that most of our seniors will need some kind of aide, particularly with regular, daily tasks. It’s next to impossible to be a primary caregiver and live your own life without help from a large network of family and friends, and as a loving child, you want to keep them happy but also safe from daily dangers, such as taking daily medication, eating properly and preventing falls. But how do you start the conversation about caregiving with your elderly parents or grandparents? Here are 13 tips you can use today for starting a conversation about caregiving.
Tip #1 – Don’t Tell Them What They Need!
Have you ever had anyone tell you that you need to calm down? Did it help calm you down, or did you become more defensive? Telling a parent they’re too old and need help is a hard thing for them to hear. Avoid talking about having an outsider around to monitor them and keep tabs on their daily activities. Try marketing the change in a way that seems like a positive: “Mom, you’ve worked hard your whole life. You deserve a personal assistant to help make your life easier! Many business leaders have one to help them with their day, and you should have one too!”
Tip #2 – Let Them Be Part of the Decision
Your parent(s) is going to be the one who is spending time with their personal assistant. Having buy-in from them from the beginning will be important in their acceptance of the new aide. Ask them what kinds of things they’d like to be able to do that they have a hard time doing now. Have them think about their personality, likes and dislikes, and needs. What kind of caregiver do they want to work with? What kind of personality traits should they exhibit?
Tip #3 – Are You Ready?
It may seem like a great idea to try to do all of this yourself. You love your parents, and they took care of you when you were little. Now, you want to return the favor. It’s natural to want to provide the loving care yourself. Before committing to a caregiving role, ask yourself if you have the proper training and support in place to give them the care they need while maintaining your own life and priorities.
“Family caregivers are being asked to shoulder greater burdens for longer periods of time. In addition to more complex care, conflicting demands of jobs and family, increasing economic pressure, and the physical and emotional demands of long-term caregiving can result in major health impacts on caregivers.” – Family Caregiver Alliance
By having the conversation early, you’ll be able to work with your loved one to find suitable care before the burden becomes so huge that it begins to take over your life. You want the best for loved ones, so be sure to think long term.
Tip #4 – Listen to Their Fears
This is a hard time for all of you, but your loved one is the one who is going to deal with this change every day. Listen to their fears. Are they afraid of losing their independence? Let them know that you hear them and understand. Then explain how having a “personal assistant” is specifically designed to help them live safely and happily in their homes! Be sure to follow-up. Have a regular conversation and bring others into the fold. Doctors and other family advisors can help.
Tip #5 – Plant Seeds Early
Start early and plant seeds with little nuggets, instead of diving into a full conversation. When your loved one starts to struggle with the everyday tasks they used to take for granted, they’re likely to become defensive if getting help is brought up right away. Instead, ask about what they want as they get older. Start the conversation before the need is already apparent. Discuss the idea as something that will happen in the future. Be sure to share with your own desires, fears, and needs. Once your loved one has a new diagnosis or episode, review what you’ve discussed in those earlier talks. Is now the time to discuss small steps to help them remain in their home?
Tip #6 – Steer the Conversation
One great way to ensure a positive outcome is to plan your conversation around specific examples of how an assistant can help! Are they not eating enough? Mention that their assistant will help make some of their favorite meals. They won’t have to worry about cooking, and your family will feel great knowing that their needs are met.
Are the dirty dishes overflowing the sink? Remind your loved one of how much they love keeping their home clean and neat. Ask them if they’d enjoy having an assistant who can help take care of some of those chores that aren’t a lot of fun. Tell them it’s an easy thing to try out to see if they like the extra freedom.
Does your loved one have a hard time getting dressed? Ask them if they’d like to be able to wear some of their old favorites again. Having an assistant come by in the morning can help them get ready and feel great all day. They can do the laundry, too, making sure their Sunday outfit is ready for that fun outing they’ve been planning.
Worried that your loved one is forgetting to take some of their medications? Express your concern for their health. Let them know that their doctor is concerned about the missing doses. Suggest that one way to keep them in their home and independent is to make sure they’re taking their medication properly and that the doctor thought having a personal assistant to remind them to take the right medications would be a big help.
Tip #7 – Appeal to Their Wants and Desires
Sure, you’ll feel great knowing that your loved one has a trusted caregiver helping them stay safe and living a good life, but those are your needs. Try speaking to their desires first. Wouldn’t they love having a personal chef to make their favorite meals? Wouldn’t they enjoy having someone around to do the housework and chores? Don’t they have a few little projects that they’d love to have help completing? Isn’t there something they used to be able to do that they’d love doing again?
Senior caregivers can make it seem like a senior isn’t independent anymore. Reframing the conversation around their desires and wants will help them see this as a way to enhance how they currently live.
Tip #8 – Address Their Concerns
Mom might be worried she’ll have to put on a face, entertain, and direct her caregiver. Dad might think that their helper will chat away all day when all they want is silence. They both might think it will be a burden to constantly have someone around and have to tell them what to do. Ask them what kinds of things they’d like help with. Find a provider who can offer a custom care plan and assure them that they’ll be in control and won’t have to tend to their assistant. They are there to make life easier, not harder!
Tip #9 – Use a Temporary Need as a Trial
Maybe your loved one isn’t ready to commit to steady, everyday help. A great way to introduce how an assistant can help them live a better life is by filling a temporary need. Getting help with a transition after a surgery or rehab procedure can be an excellent short-term trial for fitting a caregiver into Mom’s life. With a defined need and end period, they can feel comfortable that it’s not a permanent life change, and your whole family can see how a caregiver can help improve everyone’s life. Most senior care companies have a special program for discharge planning to help patients reacclimate home.
Tip #10 – Slow Down and Simplify
Particularly if your loved one is suffering from dementia or another memory disease, try to refrain from long-winded answers and explanations. A complicated answer can be confusing. Instead, try to ask simple yes or no questions and respond with short answers. Try not to push or get into a power struggle. Let the conversation happen organically and be straightforward. Practice active listening and focus on positive outcomes. Remind your loved one of all the things they are still able to do before highlighting what they’re struggling with.
Tip #11 – Tell a Story
Life is not a bullet list! Share yourself and personalize your conversation with your loved one. Use a story. Facts and statistics are great and useful, but they can be numbing when used without a framing narrative. Can you tell your loved one about someone you know who has a caregiver? Explain how the services have helped them live a better life. Do you know someone who had an incident at home? Share with your loved one the story of how the unfortunate event occurred and how it took them out of their home. Explain how getting a little help now can prevent that drastic change later. Try to focus on the positives and ask their opinion.
Tip #12 – Laugh!
Remember to have fun, relax and find humor in life. Take time to get yourself in the right frame of mind for the conversation. Being anxious and worried before the conversation won’t help it resolve in the way you hope. Find a funny story or anecdote to share along the way. Laughter really is a salve.
Tip #13 – Find a Partner for the Long Term
There are a number of factors to consider when bringing someone in to work with your aging parent. One major consideration that isn’t always obvious is to find a partner who will be around for a while. Whether that’s a single caregiver or a home care company, discuss with them how much time they can commit to your loved one and what their process is when they can’t make it for a visit. A stable, long-term relationship can be hard to set up, but it will pay off in the long run as the caregiver and your loved one build a solid relationship.
Starting a conversation about caregiving is something that no one is excited to begin. Having a discussion with your loved one is uncomfortable for them and for you, but it’s incredibly important! Using a few of these tips for starting a conversation about caregiving will help you help your loved one stay safe and happy in their home for much longer than they’d be able to manage on their own. The first conversation is just a start.
If you want help starting a conversation with your loved one, give us a call. We make it our mission to help make all aspects of aging easier for families. Have a tip that didn’t make our list? Leave us a comment to let us know!