Having the conversation with your aging parents about getting help at home

This blog post is the last in a three-part series on caring for aging parents. See Part 1, “How to determine if your aging parents might benefit from a little extra supportand Part 2, What resources are available to those caring for aging parents?

You’ve checked in and you’ve seen signs that your loved one could benefit from a little extra support at home. Now comes the time to have the conversation with your parent or grandparent.

Make no mistake about it, these conversations can be difficult. Usually, it means a reversal of roles since our parents or other senior loved ones played a large role in raising us and caring for us. When it’s the younger person’s turn to provide care options for an aging loved one, both sides my find themselves in an unfamiliar position.

Fortunately, there are ways to navigate this conversation in a way that makes everyone as comfortable as possible. First and foremost, remember that you’re having this conversation because you care about your loved one, and it helps to let the person your talking with know that’s why you are bringing up the topic.

Start with “I” statements
An easy way to break the ice is to talk about a related issue that you’ve been having. Maybe you’re taking a number medications and you can share that sometimes it’s hard to remember to take them. Or perhaps you recently aggravated your sore back and you can talk to them about how nice it was to have someone there to help with the chores or cook for you when you were laid up. Or you can simply state, “I’m concerned about you Mom, and I just want to make sure you’re doing okay when we aren’t around.”

Acknowledge independence
Independence is something we all value, so there’s no getting around the fact that your loved ones will want to hang on to theirs. You can work around this by telling your aging parents that you know they are capable of taking care of themselves, but you would be a lot more comfortable if you knew someone was there to help. You can also acknowledge their independence and tell them that you want them to be able to live independently at home as long as they are able.

Pick the right moment
Your conversation with your loved one should be the opposite of an intervention. Ideally, you want help your loved ones arrive at the conclusion themselves that a little help could go a long way. Pick a time that’s quiet and when you think they won’t be embarrassed. If someone in your family has a particular close relationship with the person you are concerned about, it may be good to designate that person as the one to have the conversation.

Provide materials
If you have a service in mind, it might be helpful to provide brochures or other materials to share with your loved one (for example, you can print a Meals on Wheels brochure or email [email protected] if you would like us to send one). If your loved one still isn’t sure about receiving services when you have the conversation, you can ask him or her to look through the materials and say that you will follow up later.

Be flexible
If your loved ones are unsure about receiving help, let them know that they can try it and if they don’t like it, they can stop receiving the service. That’s the approach Barb Kuklock and her family took with her mother Elaine when they talked to her about receiving Meals on Wheels. When they had that conversation more than 8 years ago, Elaine told them she’d give it a try, and she’s been happily receiving meals ever since. Read more about how Barb and her family approached the subject with Elaine.

Accepting help isn’t easy for any of us, but if you approach the conversation with compassion, you’ll likely find that it goes better than you might have thought. If your senior loved ones fear losing their independence, they might be happy to learn that there are services available that help them live happily and healthily at home.