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Talking to a Loved One
The Discussion of Considering Home Care

One of the toughest conversations a family has with an aging relative is convincing them to get help. It's as if the brain turns off rationality whenever the idea comes to mind that we are unable to care for ourselves, we are dependent, or we have trouble completing a task.

Don't believe it? Just try helping a 3-year-old do something that she has her mindset on doing alone. "Do it for myself!" is what you'll hear.

While you may laugh at this example, the 3-year-old, in all of us, screams and kicks when it feels as if someone is doubting our abilities in one way or another. This never changes and when you are trying to convince an aging parent or grandparent to have someone come into the home to help out, get prepared for the kicking and screaming.

There are some ways that you can approach the topic without making it sound like you doubt their abilities to take care of themselves. If your loved one is spending too much time alone, use this as a selling point of in-home care. You do not need to mention that it is for care purposes, instead, just say that you've heard of a friend whose mother/father/sister has someone come in and 'sit' with them for a few hours a day, for companionship.

Point out that the person in your example is happier with someone to talk to.

Start the Conversation

Having the Home Care Talk
Having the Home Care Talk

In a survey by The Conversation Project, it found that 9 in 10 Americans want to discuss their loved ones' health, legal, financial and end-of-life issues. But 3 in 10 Americans have talked about these concerns. Learn about The Conversation Project, which guides consumers to prepare for these conversations, offer helpful tips for starting a discussion and provide a range of topics.

For older adults and family members, these talks are difficult to start, but they're necessary.

Planning in advance saves time, energy and money, allowing everyone to think about what they want for the future.

Why It's Important to Bring Up Tough Talks

Elders are afraid of being a burden on their family.

If a loved one talks about how they hate bothering you, bring up how much easier it would be for them to have an aide stop by a few times a week. If they balk at the idea, bring up how they always say they feel as if they are 'bothering' you. Then add that having an aide will allow you two to spending quality time together.

While we are speaking of things that make older people afraid, their biggest fear - they're forced to leave their home and move into a nursing home. If you know, the person is afraid of a forced move, bring it up and reassure them that in-home services help them stay there longer. In-home care is also more cost-effective than a nursing facility!

Having the parent conversation about in-home care does not mean controlling a parent's life. Make sure the relative understands that at the end of the day, it's her decision. Not your's. So, frame questions that help them make choices.

The best way to start this process is to learn about home and community-based programs. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) and by searching The internet for caregiving and aging websites.

Get Prepared for the Talk

  1. Know Your Options - Learn about the different types of senior care and in-home care options. Know what's available in your relative's hometown and local community.
  2. Make Connections - If you live near the relative's community, meet face-to-face with home care providers without the relative. Remember to keep your parent's lifestyle in mind during the search and visits. If your dad likes to golf every day, find a home care agency or professional caregiver that provides transportation. Ask the providers if you can meet the staff and their caregivers. Once you narrow the choices down, you can return for a visit with your parent or schedule an in-home care assessment.
  3. Word of Mouth - Remember the word of mouth referrals are the best. Ask your friends for referrals. Ask your mom's physician and minister, if she attends a spiritual or religious organization, a mosque or a synagogue. Remember that social media outlets are a goldmine for referrals. Your social Are you in contact with any of them even through social media? You can also use online senior care reviews from sources like Angie's List and for unbiased family reviews.

Select the Time and Place for the Talk

  • Select Time and Location

A good time to have the talk is during the holidays, family reunions, get-together or special occasions. These are opportune times allowing for additional family members' involvement.

The best place is at home, where the relative is most comfortable. If she enjoys walking, a park is another good location.

  • Who's Involved

Decide who needs to join the conversation.

  • List of Important Topics to Discuss
  1. Household bills are not paid up
  2. Household repairs and yard maintenance unkept
  3. Driving issues
  4. Meal preparation
  5. Declining Personal hygiene
  6. Losing track of medications
  7. Isolation
  8. Walking unsteady
  9. Not making sound decisions
  • Think about the conversation
  1. Write a letter to yourself or the relative
  2. Practice with a friend
  3. Make a list of questions for them and schedule a time
  4. Share your emotional concerns
  5. Assure you do not want to take over their affairs, but concerned her needs are not met, especially in a crisis
  6. Let them know you're worried about their driving or unhealthy eating habits, and you want to offer an alternate arrangement

Remember, as a family member, you'll encounter resistance from a relative. They may either be embarrassed or don't want to burden anyone. If necessary, consider inviting a third-party professional like a geriatric care manager, a social worker, a therapist, clergy, or an elder care attorney to help facilitate the talk. Focus on facts and issues, not on negative emotions or past conflicts.

Give each person time to share concerns and suggest solutions. Then family members can agree to specific actions; the kinds of help that's needed and who will provide it. Even siblings who live far away can handle bills, make phone calls, or do Internet research.

The relative may have an opposing view, so please don't treat it as invalid.

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.