How to Talk to Parents About Care Without Insulting Them
Bringing up the need for assistance at home can be a difficult, especially for adult children who don't know how to talk to parents about care without insulting them.
Adult children are often the first to notice the warning signs that a parent might need extra help, issues like bills not being paid on time, the housework not being kept up, meals being missed, medications errors, less activity, missing appointments, more falls or even appliances like the stove being left on while unattended.
Most often an adult daughter will call our agency asking for information or advice for mom or dad, unless there are only sons in the family, and then it’s typically the oldest son. It’s much less common for an aging parent to call asking for help for themselves.
So children often notice the issue and then must do some gentle encouraging to get parents to accept the idea of needing care at home.
There is a tone to take that will make the discussion go more smoothly – one that is calm and empathetic. Remember that we as humans are programed by fear; a fear of losing something or a fear or not getting something. Fear is a survival instinct and it’s very strong.
Understand that your aging parent may have lots of fear; losing their independence, being seen as frail, being treated like a child, being told what to do. The last thing you want to do is ignite that fear or get an emotional response.
Our mental reasoning is cut off when we are angry, so you want to have a relaxed conversation in a private place where any embarrassment is limited. Don’t talk somewhere crowded, or God forbid at a family holiday party, but set aside time when no one is tired or upset and bring the subject up thoughtfully. Have your own plan on how to approach mom or dad. Make sure no one is hungry, stressed or drinking alcohol when having a conversation about the need to bring in some outside help.
Here are some talking points:
- Start by focusing on goals – what’s important to them as they age and live in their home, or do they have other plans about where they want to live?
- List activities your parent loves, and talk about how those activities can continue with a little help.
- If you hear a comment like, “I don’t want to lose my independence”, try to reassure your parent that homecare is about maintaining independence not taking it away. Good homecare can help prevent bad stuff from happening, such as falls, infections, medication mix ups, etc. that do lead to people losing independence.
- If a parent is in denial about needing assistance, it may help to avoid the term “caregiver” or nurse and instead use a term like “personal assistant” or home helper…
- Maybe you hear, “I just don’t want strangers coming into my home.” That’s a common hesitation. To that I’d say that the caregivers or personal assistants are only strangers at the first meeting - they are professional, trained, screened and supervised by the agency. While this might be new for your parent, it’s another day at rewarding work for the care provider.
- Introduce in home care slowly, maybe start with an introduction, have a few hours a week, gradually add care as the parent is more accepting – talk about it as a “trial run” not a life sentence. We had a client, the judge, daughter lived in northern California
- Make it about you: Emphasize that extra help would be a relief to you as a daughter or son, that you will worry less.
- If you end up getting nowhere, consider bringing in a care manager to work with your parent as an advocate. Neutral outside professional help may elicit a better response.
At Home Nursing Care offers care management services to help families plan for the future in a non-threatening manner. Feel free to contact our office for more help.
If you'd like to see the video blog on this topic, click here.