Talking to Elderly Parents about Getting Help

elder care

Did you know there are 4.5 million professional caregivers in the United States today? These individuals provide compassionate care to those who are elderly, disabled, or otherwise need direct assistance. And that number is expected to grow by a whopping 1.1 million new caregivers by 2028. As Baby Boomers age, there are a lot of elderly parents out there who need help[1].

But a surprising number of elderly adults are resistant to that help. Interestingly, Pew Research Center points out that most Baby Boomers believe “old age” begins at 72 years old – but in reality, many need some types of help well before then. Many of them need someone to help with the little things. They might benefit from a housekeeper, a home assistant who can cook meals for them, a driver who can get them safely to appointments, someone to handle their shopping, or someone to assist them with the activities of daily living. Many will benefit from the use of a medical alert system. Unfortunately, for many older adults, the well-known “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial has caused emergency button alarms to be associated with weakness or fragility, but the fact is, medical alerts for seniors empower independence and support aging adults who wish to live at home on their own as long as possible.

Some elderly parents may be quick to accept certain types of help. For instance, hiring someone to clean the gutters or handle more dangerous tasks might be an easy agreement.

When it comes to letting someone into their house to care for them, they could see that as an entirely different ballgame. In such a case, a medical alert pendant or bracelet might be the answer to making sure they are protected while respecting their privacy.

How to Talk to Your Parents About Caregiving Assistance

Caregiving can take many forms. If your parent is willing to admit they need some help around the house, they might want you to be the one to do it for them. And that’s an honor! When they want you to be a family caregiver, that says they trust you deeply and believe you can do a better job than anyone else.

But while they might want you to be the one to handle everything from their housekeeping to their shopping to their personal needs, there is only so much of you to go around. Getting professional help can make everyone’s life easier.

Here are some ways to talk with your parents about getting outside help.

·         Know this talk is an ongoing process. It’s a rare situation to sit down with a parent and hear them immediately agree they need to hire someone to help them. So look at this talk as a series of discussions that open up the possibilities a little more each time. If your parent needs immediate help, that’s a different story – and that’s when you can get a doctor or social worker involved to help you talk about this with your loved one. But if your senior parent is dealing with a gradual decline and will need help soon, you’ve got some time to talk it through.

·         Give them room to vent. As we get older, plenty of losses come into our lives. Your parents might know people who have passed away, seen loved ones who lost their independence in an instant after a stroke or heart attack, or seen their own abilities deteriorate over a short period of time. The process of aging can be frustrating, frightening, and sad. When you broach the subject of getting in-home care, all of the emotions sparked by those losses could come out. Let them talk. Let them express how angry, sad, or scared they are. The more they talk it out, the more likely they will be to open up to new ideas that support their desire to age in place.

·         Talk about their independence. Many elderly parents don’t want a professional caregiver of any kind because of what the presence of that caregiver implies: that there is something about their life that they can no longer handle efficiently. And they can interpret that as a loss of independence. But the truth is just the opposite. By hiring assistance with cooking and cleaning, senior parents have more free time to do the things they enjoy. By hiring someone to drive them to appointments, they are sure to not miss one. By getting a personal aide into the home, they are much more likely to eat right, take their medication, and have someone nearby to help them with the little things that pop up. All of these things enhance their good health and make it easier for them to stay in their own home for much longer.

·         They get to remain in their own homes as long as possible. Speaking of aging in place, a professional caregiver can help assure that happens. Many individual who don’t have in-home care wind up in an assisted living facility. When faced with the options of staying at home with a caregiver to help or going to an assisted living facility and giving up their home, many parents will realize how serious the situation is and choose the option that keeps them at home longer.

·         Make it about others. While a person might be hesitant to hire a caregiver for themselves, the situation looks different when you suggest that a professional caregiver could free up time for other loved ones. Aging Care reports that family members who live with the person who needs assistance often put in 37.4 hours of care each week – that’s a full-time job!

·         Ask them for a trial run. If they are resistant to the idea of hiring anyone to help them, ask them to give it a shot for a while – just to see what it’s like. More than likely, they will enjoy the freedom that comes from not having to cook meals, clean their home, or remember to take their medication on time. They might truly enjoy the relaxation that comes with someone else doing the driving. They might even find that they enjoy the companionship of the person hired to help them, which is a best-case scenario for everyone.

·         Do what you can to keep them safe. A personal emergency response system, or button alarm, is very affordable and gives the entire family peace of mind that immediate assistance is standing by 24/7.  Medical alert technology is not intrusive. It is simply there for seniors when an accident occurs or an emergency arises. It’s a great way to provide some assistance for a parent who insists on their privacy.

·         Keep your emotions in check. You are seeing the situation from a very different perspective than your elderly parent is. When you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they need help but they are resistant to it, frustration can build rather quickly. Work hard to keep those emotions from bursting forth and turning into an argument. Try to remember that they are facing the fears and worries that come along with aging. You are both part of the same team and their safety and security is the ultimate goal. 

·         Get a professional to talk with them. If they are still very resistant to the idea of getting help but their physical abilities are diminishing, it’s time to call in a professional to talk with them. Hearing their family physician say the same things you’ve been saying can help them understand that this is a serious situation.

·         Give them the power to choose. When they do agree to hire someone on even a trial basis, give them the opportunity to choose that person or choose the particular help they need. For instance, they might balk at the idea of someone helping them clean the house but they’re open to letting someone drive them to places they need to go. In that case, start with the driver. Let them have a say in who is hired. Once they realize how much the driver helps in their day-to-day life, they might be more open to someone to clean their house or help them with personal care.

·         Evaluate the situation often. You started the conversation because your parent needed a certain type of help. Over time, their needs will change. Be ready to respond to those changes by keeping the lines of communication open and getting different types of assistance as the need arises. Also be on the lookout for personality conflicts, as not every caregiver will be a good fit. It might take some time to find the level of assistance your parent needs and the right person to provide that assistance.

Ease Your Senior Parent into Accepting Help with Alert1

Talking a resistant senior parent into getting help may not be easy. While some might be willing to have the conversation and put up less resistance, they will likely still be emotional about the situation – they know they need help but they don’t want to accept that they are getting older.

Be aware of the potential grief that comes along with the caregiving decision and give your parent the opportunity to move into this new phase of their life as gracefully as possible.

There are other options that can help as well, such as a medication dispenser and reminder, a monitored smoke detector, and an in-home medical alert pendant. These small changes in the home with Alert1 can ease your parent into the idea of getting even greater help in the near future while making the entire family feel a little more at-ease about the situation. Let Alert1 help as you begin to have the important discussions about your parent’s future and safety.