Let’s face it, dealing with parents on home care issues can be tough!
They can be just as strong-willed as ever, but may now need help coping with activities of daily living. Don’t feel guilty about having mixed feelings about helping your mom or dad as they age – look how much you have on your plate!
Between the kids, your career, your spouse and you’re your own external responsibilities is a lot to handle.
Even the best of us need help from time to time and there is no reason to feel guilty about helping your mom or dad the senior home care help they need to remain independent for longer. In many homes any discussion of getting a companion or aide can result in a huge fight, but it doesn’t have to.
Here are seven tips on getting your mom or dad ready for companion care.
1-Stop focusing on what they can’t do and prioritize your concerns instead
It’s overwhelming to help your mom or dad, especially when you are balancing caring for a parent with a full-time career, your own children, and your own outside responsibilities. If this is you, it is time for help. That’s likely going to create negative feelings for your mom or dad, and may even lead to a fight. Instead of addressing the entire list of what your mom or dad can’t do prioritize where companion care can make the most difference in both your lives.
That’s likely going to create negative feelings for your mom or dad, and may even lead to a fight.
Instead of addressing the entire list of what your mom or dad can’t do prioritize where companion care can make the most difference in both your lives.
Before you talk to your mom or dad spend 10 minutes brainstorming with paper and pen, or better yet, open the notepad app on your phone when you are waiting for your kids at school. Write down everything that comes to mind that you need help with when it comes to caring for your mom or dad.
Be specific – don’t just write companionship, write “help bathing”, “preparing meals”, “help with laundry”. Write down absolutely everything that comes to your mind. Then, go back and put an asterisk next to those items which are most important to you.
You’ll probably see a pattern develop and presto! you’ll have a prioritized list of concerns.
2-Stop treating your mom or dad like a child and listen!
While your concerns and priorities for senior home care are important, your mom or dad is still an adult. Treat them as such when you open the conversation. Don’t ignore what they are saying. Most parents immediately say no to companion care because they are afraid of something – loss of independence, loss of privacy, loss of dignity. Sit down and have a discussion with your mom or dad at a time when you are both calm and prepared. Prepared? Yes! Tell your mom or dad in advance that you want to have a discussion about their welfare. Like teenagers, your aging parents also don’t like to have curve balls thrown at them!
Sit down and have a discussion with your mom or dad at a time when you are both calm and prepared.
Prepared? Yes! Tell your mom or dad in advance that you want to have a discussion about their welfare. Like teenagers, your aging parents also don’t like to have curve balls thrown at them!
When you sit down with your mom or dad, ask questions first. Try stress-free judgement-free conversation starters like these: “How do you feel things are going around the house?”, “What things do you do every day that I could make easier?”. Be open to what your mom or dad has to say – even if it is combative or dismissive.
They may feel defensive and hurt by your questions, even if you are judgement-free, but if you listen carefully and respond with concern instead of anger you’ll probably find that they know they need help as well.
After asking stress-free judgement-free questions, outline your concerns. Put yourself in your parent’s shoes and be considerate when you outline your priorities. Instead of saying “You need help in the shower, you can’t bathe yourself anymore” try this, “I worry about you being alone in the shower. I would feel more comfortable if someone was in the house while you are bathing, but I’m unable to be there all the time.”
Show care and concern as your outline your priorities and be clear on why these are priorities for you.
It is harder for your mom or dad to get angry with you when you say things like “I love you and I am concerned for your safety.”Once you’ve asked questions and outlined your concerns, explain why you feel senior home care is the best option for your mom or dad. Many families opt for senior home care because it prolongs independent living, maintains a home environment your parent is used to, keeps your mom or dad in their community and doesn’t require moving or selling property. There may come a time when your mom or dad needs more than companion care, but highlighting the benefits of staying at home with a caregiver versus moving to assisted living should cut down on some of the anger. Never threaten to send them to assisted living as a punishment. Although you feel companion care is the right step for your mom or dad now, it is impossible to know what the future will bring. Care should never be used as a punishment or threat.
There may come a time when your mom or dad needs more than companion care, but highlighting the benefits of staying at home with a caregiver versus moving to assisted living should cut down on some of the anger. Never threaten to send them to assisted living as a punishment. Although you feel companion care is the right step for your mom or dad now, it is impossible to know what the future will bring. Care should never be used as a punishment or threat.
Although you feel companion care is the right step for your mom or dad now, it is impossible to know what the future will bring. Care should never be used as a punishment or threat.
3-Are things getting heated? Try to find the real reasons behind any negativity or resistance.
You may find your mom or dad is very resistant to senior home care or a companion. Some parents will even get angry and yell. That is not unusual. For many seniors, the feeling of resistance comes from fear in their inability to do the tasks of daily living and loss of independence.
The aging process can be very frightening for both the parent and the child.
Many seniors also downplay chronic pain like back pain or hip pain and may resist having support because they don’t want to risk having their pain exposed. Others may be grieving a loss in their life – a spouse, a friend or even their independence.
These are all normal and common reasons why your mom or dad may push back against having senior home care. These are not excuses for ending the conversation.
To find out why your mom or dad is resistant to having in home help do not accuse them or attempt to pinpoint the reason yourself. Instead, ask your mom or dad if something is going on that is bothering them. For example, ask how your mom or dad is coping with a recent loss or if they are frustrated by their lack of independence. Avoid accusing your mom or dad of feeling a certain way. Empathize with them as much as you can – one day your own children may have this conversation with you.
Once you’re able to identify the real reason behind the resistance respond with concern and care. For example, instead of saying “I know you are scared, but you have to do this” try something more empathetic such as “I know it must be very frustrating not to be able to drive anymore, especially for someone like you who is so independent! I want to make sure you can still get out and about safely and I’m unable to take you all the places you want to go. Having companion care will make sure there is always a safe driver available for you.”
Above all, don’t dismiss or minimize your mom or dad’s feelings, which will only set the stage for another fight later on. Remember that senior home care is not your decision, it is your mom or dad’s choice.
4-Lay it all out on the table!
Now that you have had the conversation about companion care and have discussed the need, the willingness and underlying fear or negativity it is time to lay it all out on the table. If your mom or dad is like most aging seniors and is scare of losing their dignity or independence this step will be crucial. Like you do with children, outline your expectations to your mom and dad clearly. Be very specific about what you will expect your parent to do and what you will expect the senior home care provider to do and what you will do. Now is not a time to be vague or passive aggressive. Your mom or dad needs you to lead the conversation here – be the adult!
To outline your expectations, think about creating a job description and a list of duties. Literally take a pen and paper or that trusty notepad app and number down the page 1 -15. Then split the page into three columns. On each line write out a specific task you or your parent wants the companion to do in the right column.
On the corresponding line in the center column, write down what your mom or dad will need to do to make sure that person is successful. And finally in the left column, write down what you will need to do related to that task. For example:
Senior Home Care Staff | Mom or Dad | Me
Bathe mom twice a week | Not fight or dismiss the companion | Provide soap and shampoo
This may sound ridiculously simplistic, but it is the only way to make sure you’re clear about your expectations of the companion care staff, your mom or dad and yourself. Do this for every single duty on your list. Seriously, every single item. Then, discuss the list with your mom or dad, focusing on how each role is important and requires the participation of the others. This will cut down on disagreements and fights later and will help your mom or dad feel involved in their own care and decisions – an important step in their long term wellness and care.
5-Are you the family from ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’?
Hopefully it isn’t the stuff movies are made from, but we all have cultural and religious differences that influence how things are done in our house.
From meal prep to ingredients, to products used to clean, to how furniture is arranged, these cultural nuances will probably make a big difference to how your mom or dad feels the companion care staff is doing and the push back you get about hiring someone.
Pause for a second when you are at a red light today and have a good laugh about all the quirky things your mom or dad does. We all have our quirks. Then think about why they do those things. Is it because they were raised that way? It is because they believe in a certain philosophy?
When you get home, make a list of cultural or religious considerations for your mom or dad’s care that you’ll want to talk to the senior home care agency about. For example, some men may not feel comfortable having a woman help them bathe.
Other people keep special dietary laws and need someone who cares for them to understand their dietary needs.
When you are done look at the list – are these things that can be taught or learned, or are you better off hiring someone from a similar cultural, gender or religious background?
Once you have a list, talk it through with your mom or dad. Find out what cultural or religious difference they may be concerned about. You may be surprised to find that a parent who has been non-religious for 40 years only wants a caregiver of the same religion for the comfort and religious sensitivities. After you write down your list and your parent’s list, put an asterisk next to those items that are non-negotiable and those that you or your parent can be flexible on. Remember, like with every other step in this process, refrain from negative language or dismissing your parent’s concerns.
6-Where’s the will, mom?
No, don’t ask her like that! Do find out where your mom or dad keeps important documents so you can address any holes in their estate planning or care before something happens. Doing so now may avoid a big fight later. Your mom or dad may not want to share their will with you, and that is fine – but ask about a healthcare directive, living will and a durable power of attorney. If your mom or dad has these documents, ask your parent the last time these items were updated.
Your mom or dad may not want to share their will with you, and that is fine – but ask about a health care directive, living will and a durable power of attorney. If your mom or dad has these documents, ask your parent the last time these items were updated.
If it has been a while, schedule your mom or dad an appointment with an estate planning attorney. It is very important to have these papers updated before your parent ages beyond the point of being fully coherent or becomes unable to make their own decisions.
Do it now while you’re talking about their future and their care to avoid a tense and often emotional fight later. If your parent becomes defensive or refuses to answer questions don’t push too hard, just remind your mom or dad that making these decisions now and letting you know where the important papers are kept will keep all options on the table. If there is a medical emergency or your parent’s health declines quickly some of these options may no longer be available.
7-Make a budget.
You probably already know this, but one of the top reasons why families fight is money. Your mom or dad may push back against home care with the argument that they can’t afford it. Before you interview companion care agencies, sit down with your mom or dad and have a talk about budget. Caring for an older parent can be expensive, no matter if they stay in their home or go to an assisted living center, but building a budget will give you realistic parameters to work within.
It’s simple to make a budget for senior home care services if you follow these steps:
- Determine what funding sources are available. Many seniors are on a fixed income and may not be able to cover the cost themselves. This is where fear often comes in on the part of your mom or dad. Ask your mom or dad about insurance policies, Medicare or even health insurance coverage that may help to defray the cost. If no coverage is available, or your parent doesn’t quality and your parent doesn’t have the budget to cover care, ask family members if they are willing and able to pitch in to help your mom or dad get the care they need.
- Determine your needs. Remember that list of priorities you wrote up at step one? And that conversation with mom or dad? Take the list of duties you wrote in step four and rank everything in priority order.
- Determine a realistic timeframe for care. Does your parent’s insurance pay for six months of senior home care? Will long-term care insurance cover a year? Is your cousin willing to chip in for 3 months? Determine whether you have time limits on the funding for your care.
- Build your budget. Use the information in steps one, two and three of this section to determine how much money you have, what you need it to cover, and for how long you are able to fund these services.
Having a budget is critical to avoiding a fight with your mom or dad – being realistic about how things are going to be paid, who is going to pay and how companion care will be billed may be overwhelming but by following these steps it doesn’t have to be.
Time to hire someone!
Now that you have your priorities and those of your mom or dad, do research about the senior home care options in your area.
Get references, check qualifications, insurance coverage, self-pay prices and be clear about what services you need.
Call 3 -4 agencies in your area and ask to speak with a manager. Describe your situation in clear detail and ask how their services can meet your needs. Involve your parent in the interview process to help cut down on fighting and make your mom or dad feel empowered to make his or her own decisions.
Bringing up senior home care to your mom or dad may be difficult, especially if your parent is used to being independent or relying on you. For many families there comes a time when a child can no longer take care of their parent.
There is no shame in asking for help or reaching out to professionals to provide your mom or dad with the best possible attention and care. When you feel that it is time to bring the topic up, follow these tips to reduce the stress and have a smoother conversation with your mom or dad and get them ready for companion care!