Whether your loved one is having difficulty completing everyday tasks or you feel you can no longer fulfill the role of primary caregiver, home care is an option that not only allows your loved one to maintain as much independence as possible but also gives you peace of mind knowing he or she is safe. Broaching the topic of outside assistance with an aging parent or loved one, however, can be a difficult process; the thought of a stranger coming into one’s home can sometimes seem overwhelming and result in resistance.
When initiating this type of family discussion it is important to choose your words carefully—the goal is to have a dialogue, not to dictate the solution you believe is best for your parent. An open, honest conversation will help your loved one recognize the potential need for in-home care and understand how it can positively impact his or her life. Consider these tips:
- Observe and research. Perhaps you notice that mom has recently had trouble climbing the stairs or that dad has vision problems that have resulted in unsafe driving practices (e.g. drifting into other lanes, not obeying road signs). In any case, it is important to observe where limitations might be so that you can accurately discuss your concerns with your parents and find the best solutions.
- Evaluate receptiveness and show you are a resource. Probe lightly during a visit or over the phone (e.g. “When was your last doctor’s appointment? What did he/she say?”; “Did you drive to the mall today? How’s the car?”). If your parent is receptive to your questions, ask how you can be helpful. You want to be respectful and establish yourself as a resource; avoid phrases like, “That’s not good. We’ll have to do X.” or “It’s definitely time to bring in a caregiver or move you to a facility.”
- Set the tone. Let conversation flow naturally. Ideally, your parent will bring up the topic of assistance, but in most cases you’ll have to start the dialogue. You can do so directly (e.g. “It was scary when you almost tripped on the steps this morning. Is that happening often?”) or indirectly (e.g. “Lisa’s parents just hired a caregiver to come in three times a week—her mom is thrilled to have help with housekeeping and cooking and now can spend more time gardening and playing with the grandchildren.”). You want to communicate your concerns, but avoid taking a critical approach as it will likely end the dialogue.
- Be receptive. Do your parents prefer to age at home? What are your parents’ concerns about aging? What is most important to them? Practice empathetic listening to show you support their opinions. If your parent is not open to discussion around additional assistance, try to get to the root of the resistance (e.g. cost, invasion of privacy, loss of independence, fear of theft) and ease his or her concerns (e.g. “There are many agencies that conduct thorough background checks on caregivers so we can be sure they are trustworthy.”; “Caregivers will not take away your independence by doing everything for you, but instead will only offer help when needed.”).
- Consider bringing in a third party. If your loved one is totally resistant to the options you have put forth, sometimes it can be helpful to bring in a neutral third party. If your parent has always sought counsel from a priest or rabbi, for example, consider asking if that person could address concerns and suggest options. You might even consider asking a Home Care Assistance care manager to facilitate your family meeting – we can help ensure that everyone effectively communicates their feelings about placing a caregiver in the home while addressing questions that arise. We’re happy to help in any way we can – without any obligation.
- Follow up. Maybe you’re only able to introduce the possibility of home care and your parent needs time to think about it. Respect your loved one’s choice and give him or her time to digest all of the information you talked about—you want the final decision to be collaborative.
We understand that hiring a caregiver you can trust to care for your mom or dad is an important decision that needs to be treated with sensitivity. We also know that navigating the various long-term care options available can sometimes be overwhelming. We would like to share our What is Home Care Guide which offers a detailed account of long-term care options and their pros and cons.
If you have decided that home care is the best option for your aging loved one, we have developed an Agency Evaluation Checklist that will help you ask the right questions to find the care provider that is best suited for your mom or dad’s needs. The Checklist covers everything from the experience and training of the caregivers to the responsiveness of the care managers. Make sure you have this checklist in hand as you evaluate different home care companies.