Expert and practical methods of discussing care with aging parents

As a child with an aging parent or parents, you may soon be faced with having “the talk” and discussing care with aging parents. How do you deal with legitimate concerns for their safety, living arrangements, household upkeep, driving, and personal care all under the banner of “getting help?” For many children of aging parents, “the talk” is about as comfortable as the talk they had with you about sex. 

You are probably acutely aware your parents want to stay in their home as long as possible.  They are not alone.  According to AARP survey of U.S. seniors, 90% said they want to continue living in their current homes as they age.  For financial, emotional and social reasons, aging-in-place makes sense IF they can age in place, safely.  So how do you start the conversation?  

“How are we going to tell Dad he needs someone to make sure he eats properly and takes his medication? How do I convince Mom to let someone keep her company and drive her to the grocery store?  I’m really worried Dad may fall when showering—how do I discuss this with him?

Quotes from Benefits of Home client’s adult children

Few older adults will admit they need help, even if they’re struggling. They fear that they’ll become a burden or completely lose independence. Discussing care with aging parents becomes a sensitive subject and can lead to arguments or immediate shutdown when families bring it up. And yes, unless they have long-term care insurance or qualify for veteran’s benefits, in-home care will cost money, another sore subject.  Here are some tips for talking with parents about needing help

Tip #1. Use the term “assistant” not caregiver.

Older adults don’t want to be a burden and have “care.”   So instead, talk about how they’ve reached a point in their life where they deserve a personal assistant to make life easier and smoother.  Use the fact they want to stay in their home and an “assistant” will make that goal much easier to reach.  Use an example from the working world. Senior can relate to an administrative assistant who helps the staff with everyday tasks.

Tip #2.  Start slow

Especially when parents are highly resistant, start with a 1- or 2-hour visit once a week or every other week to help around the house—light cleaning, laundry, changing linens, etc.  If they need help with medications, get a nurse to stop by every other week.  Typically, once seniors start using their “assistants”, they are very pleased.

Tip #3   Use a trusted professional

Many older adult revere healthcare professionals, especially their physicians where they often have long-term and highly-trusted relationships. Of course, physicians can fully explain the “downsides” of aging like falls and poor personal care.  More importantly, they have the broad experience to explain the many benefits of getting in-home assistance and that many of their patients use in-home services.  Don’t be shy—call your parents doctor’s office and talk to the nurse. Be specific on observations, issues and concerns so that the nurse can enter into the record and have the physician directly address the issues.

Tip #4.  Include your parent in the decision making to help them feel in control

Your parent will be the one spending time with the hired caregiver and agency, so it’s important that there’s a good personality fit between them. Involve your parent in the interview and selection process. Make sure the agency understands your parent’s specific “assistant” likes and dislikes.  It’s their money and house so don’t be shy. 

Tip #5.  Managing the financial trade-offs

Outside not wanting “care”, cost is the next, most frequent objection. The best way to address cost of in-home assistance is to put it in perspective of next-level care, usually assisted living.  An average assisted living room is $4-5,000/month plus your parent will have to move.  When seniors understand the cost of assisted living and trade-offs, in-home assistance costs, which allows them to stay in their home, is reasonable.  Your agency can provide a clear plan and cost estimate so there are no surprises.

About Benefits of Home

At Benefits of Home, we believe becoming a senior citizen is a life milestone that should be honored and respected. Our compassionate caregivers and team strive daily to not only provide peace of mind to your family but also truly benefit the lives of you and your loved ones.

Over 10+ years in Kansas City, we have proudly served over 3,000 local seniors with the highest quality, non-medical home care.  Our process personalizes your care plan to insure you receive the right care, caregiver, and schedule, all at the right price.