Care at home: speaking to elderly parents about care

When you notice that one or both of your elderly parents is struggling to cope in their own home, it’s probably time to instigate a discussion about care, but that doesn’t mean jumping straight into the subject.

You need to plan your moment for the initial discussion and prepare yourself for the conversation that follows. It’s never easy to begin the process of helping your own parents to talk about this issue, but follow these tips to ensure the best possible outcome.

Choose your moment

Just because you have realised that your parents are having difficulties with day-to-day living, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they have noticed too, so it’s important to broach the subject with tact, and at an appropriate time.

Launching into an unexpected conversation about care is never going to go down well if they are just settling down to watch their favourite television programme, for example, so don’t be tempted to rush into the conversation.

If you come from a large family, then it may be appropriate to open the initial discussion when the whole family is gathered together. However don’t risk upsetting an important occasion such as a family celebration or perhaps a Christmas gathering with a tricky conversation. Make sure that all family members are aware of the situation, and give everybody the opportunity to put their point of view across.

Be prepared for your parents to be annoyed, disbelieving, or even openly hostile to the idea at first. Nobody likes to admit that they are struggling to cope, and for the older generation, who are accustomed to a high degree of independence, the prospect of care can be incredibly intimidating.

Your parent may feel that you are trying to palm them off into residential care, so take time to reassure them that you have their best interests at heart and that you aren’t going to make any decisions without their full agreement.

Discuss the options

Most elderly people believe that moving into residential care is the only option available to them, once they are unable to cope in their own homes, so you need to reassure them that this is not the case.

Other options include sheltered housing and retirement complexes, but an increasingly popular option – and one that involves the absolute minimum of disruption – is to choose live-in care.

This is where a dedicated caregiver moves into your loved one’s home, providing a range of elderly care assistance, ranging from simple companion care through to more complex dementia care.

Do bear in mind that although you may have acknowledged that your elderly parent needs help, they might not be ready to face that fact themselves. Your parent may show signs of ageing, but in their head, they are still young and fit.

Tact and diplomacy are the order of the day in any initial discussion. It may be necessary to raise the subject, discuss it for a while, and then put it to one side for a few days to allow your loved one to adjust to the idea over a period of time.

Consider financial implications

Many members of the older generation dislike discussing their financial affairs, but this is a necessary part of any discussion about future care. Some basic help is available for the elderly from the state, but this may not be sufficient for some people’s needs, so establishing a financial plan is an integral part of any discussion about long-term care.

You may find that your parents have already made financial provisions for their old age, but in many cases, the family will need to put together a plan about how any care is to be financed.

Your parent may be concerned that their home will have to be sold to finance a place in a care home, and may not realise that it’s possible to source a private live-in carer who will help them to continue to lead their current independent lifestyle.

Don’t be drawn into arguments

People’s attitude towards elderly care can be extremely varied, so be prepared for the conversation to take many twists and turns. You may be faced with outright hostility, in which case it is imperative not to be drawn into any heated arguments.

It may be better to stop the discussion for a while and give your loved one a chance to assimilate the idea that they are in need of some help. Allow your loved one to express their concerns, fears and worries, and be prepared to discuss them, providing reassurance that you are not trying to palm them off onto strangers.

Elderly people can feel particularly vulnerable, so it’s essential that they know they are able to express their thoughts without fear of criticism.

Provide your loved one with information about their care alternatives, and allow them plenty of time to explore all possible avenues, to find the most appropriate solution that best fits their needs, and their desires too.

Focus on the positives

The older generation tends to be fiercely independent, and therefore may understandably be reluctant to give up control of their own lives. These worries may be worse if your loved one is living with a chronic condition, or is facing palliative care. You need to point out positive outcomes of establishing a viable care plan, showing them how it will enhance and improve their lives.

A live-in carer, for example, will help with household chores, facilitate fun and sociable outings outside the home, provide a constant source of companionship, and provide reassurance for the wider family that your parent is safe and well, and being looked after, even when you are not available.


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